Shadow Board

Read about the Shadow Board as well as our other programmes of work, list of clients, team members, and ways of working in our ILN brochure.

What is the Shadow Board Programme?

It is time for something different. If systems working to improve the health and wellbeing of citizens are going to successfully meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, they need to tap more effectively into the talent that is present within and around their organisations. We need new and authentic voices
around our board rooms and at the forefront of decision making. We need the richness and diversity of our communities present within decision-making and we need leaders who can lead with courage and compassion.

Over recent years, evidence has suggested that only a minority of Board Directors have had any formal development in understanding the roles, responsibilities, and complexities of being a director in an organisation. Many NHS executives have spoken with us noting that this would have been of great value to
them if offered.

Kirstie Stott of the ILN in a Shadow Board meeting

The Shadow Board Programme® is a highly successful programme which has, to date, supported hundreds of senior aspirant leaders in both the NHS and wider healthcare system. It offers them real life experience of operating as an Executive Director within an organisation or system in a safe and developmental space.

Evaluation of the programme demonstrates the value for: organisational talent management; succession planning; increasing diversity at a senior level; and facilitating positive challenge of existing governance and decision making. In addition, many participants have directly attributed the learning and experience from the programme to their personal progression, career promotion, and in being successfully recruited into a board level position.

Furthermore, Executives and senior leaders have directly linked the experiential aspects of the programme to positive challenge and decisions being made at board level. They also note the organisational benefits of having an opportunity for a group of senior leaders to critically appraise existing strategy, risk, and governance.

How does the Shadow Board Programme work?

The Shadow Board Programme® is delivered ‘in situ’ by offering all participants the opportunity to tackle ‘current’ board agenda items. It provides participants with a unique insight and exploration of life as an Executive Board member, and in turn offers the organisation or system greater thought diversity into current and real life issues.

The programme enables participants to implement and embed their learning in a safe space to gain experience of what it is really like to be an Executive Director. However, this is not simply role-play! This is experiential learning at its finest to help support new ways of working and of being an Executive. It brings to life not only the taught content, but also an understanding of the nuances, power, influence, dynamics, and responsibilities of being an Executive Director.

This enhances understanding and enables more effective senior leaders who can more confidently and competently contribute to: strategy; risk management; good governance; and highly effective and impactful leadership, in order to create safe and engaging cultures.

Having a shadow board also demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to being well-led through the development and investment of senior leadership outside of the Board of Directors. These leaders can critically appraise the governance process and structures in line with the CQC key lines of enquiry to assure the delivery of high-quality, person-centred care. This supports learning and innovation whilst promoting an open, fair, and inclusive culture through diversity of thought at the most senior levels.

The Shadow Board Programme step by step overview:

  1. An inclusive and diverse identification and recruitment process is conducted to select around 12 – 15 individuals to participate in the experience.
  2. The selected individuals participate in four one-day modules (Strategy and Governance, Strategic Finance and Risk, People Leadership and Culture, and Systems Thinking).
  3. Four observed shadow board meetings are held the day before the board proper, using live papers and chaired by a Non – Executive Director. This person may aspire to become a Chair and is responsible for facilitating the shadow board discussions to the board.
  4. Individuals participate in four Action Learning Sets (ALS), to create a safe space to build relationships, support and challenge and to develop and grow.

The value of having a Shadow Board:

For Participants, the programme:

  • Engages leaders in a meaningful way.
  • Increases understanding of the portfolios of their Executives and those Executives outside of their functional speciality.
  • Provides experience of working as part of a Unitary Board, tackling ‘current and live’ issues.
  • Extends thinking beyond functional activity which widens perspectives and supports the development of strategic thinking skills.
  • Connects senior leaders and enables a safe space to connect and reflect.
  • Improves understanding of effective corporate governance, regulation, and oversight of NHS bodies and Integrated Care Boards.

For the organisation or healthcare system, the programme:

  • Results in good governance by supporting organisations and emerging systems to have informed decision-making through a diverse and inclusive Shadow Board.
  • Supports sustainability, growth, and improvement.
  • Provides a different perspective to senior decision-making.
  • Facilitates a ‘whole systems’ approach.
  • Facilitates the CQC Well – Led approach.
  • Draws upon a wider and more diverse pool of talent and skills to challenge, govern, manage risk and finances, and innovate.
  • Promotes a more inclusive culture at every level.
  • Identifies an executive talent pool and future potential leaders.
  • Enables growth for the future through expanding and developing the workforce.
  • Creates a safe space for senior leaders to test out board level working and have better understanding of the role whilst feeling they contribute to board level decision making. This creates the right opportunities to enable greater succession planning and preparation for board roles.

Read what our clients think about the Shadow Board programme on our testimonials page.

The Shadow Board Programme was a shortlisted finalist for the ‘Innovation Award’ Northern Power Women Awards 2019 and was also an integral part of the West Yorkshire Partnership Fellowship Programme which won a Health Service Journal award for System Leadership Initiative of the Year in 2020.