How many Directors should your Board have?

Nine.

Ok. It depends.

Here’s how to about it:

The logic of Governance Board size

For most organizations three to four is likely too small. A Board’s role is to provide oversight of risk, strategy and CEO performance. Doing a good job likely means a range of expertise is required that might not be possible if there are only three or four Directors.

It’s just as likely that more than nine is starting to become too many. Even though more people means broader expertise – whether it be in governance, regional representation or a particular subject matter expertise – it also means greater challenges managing the Board. Just getting together can be tougher – especially on short notice.  Bigger Boards put greater requirement on better planning – and better leadership.

Are there bigger Boards? Sure. Large diverse organizations like banks frequently opt for larger Boards. However, when you see the Board sizes for some of well-known companies it’s obvious even large companies don’t need large Boards. Apple has eight Directors. Amazon 10. Google/Alphabet 11.

How do you know your Board of Directors is too big?

You know your Board is too big when you decide it’s time for an Executive Committee. Executive committees are every Board’s clue that they can’t run without devolving at least some Board responsibility to a smaller group. Which is kind of ironic. The bigger a Board gets, the more likely it is to put decision making in the hands of fewer people.

We are not fans of executive committees. For lots of Boards the Executive Committee dilutes the knowledge, insight and participation of all the Board’s Directors. Too often this happens without the Board realizing what has happened.

So, what’s the right number of members for your Board?

Think about it and the number may become obvious. It’s likely between five and eleven Directors.