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What is the Shadow Board programme?

The shadow board programme is a ‘real world’ development opportunity, delivered in situ and designed to provide senior leaders and aspiring Executive Directors with insight into life inside the boardroom and experience of dealing with real issues.

This innovative approach can create leadership capability within an organisation or wider system, supporting aspiring senior leaders to develop into an executive role as part of a strategic approach to succession planning.  It can also enhance diversity of thought amongst current leaders and board members by challenging assumptions and enabling the sharing of fresh knowledge and different experience to prompt new ways of thinking. 

What’s involved?

The Shadow Board Programme consists of 3 full-day modules, delivered one a month for three consecutive months. Following module 1, an experienced tutor will support the group to establish the Shadow Board, supporting the development of terms of reference and expectations. Our team will also work behind the scenes with the executive sponsor/lead and the trust chair to identify who will Chair the Shadow Board and supply secretariat provision. 

In addition to the three core modules, senior managers are encouraged to undertake self- directed learning, attend and observe organisation committee meetings and learn from each other. Participants are provided with feedback and support in aligning the modular content to the experiential aspects.

Each Shadow Board is bespoke to the organisation, this is done by the utilisation of key documents such as Board Assurance Frameworks and Strategies, to enable the delivery to be meaningful to participants.

The Shadow Board itself meets separately from the Executive Board and this can be either before or after. We suggest that the Executive Board Papers are shared with the Shadow Board to bring realism and to also add value to the organisation. Participants are challenged through not staying within their functional role, meaning that a Deputy Director of Finance may present the Nursing and Quality paper.

Running a Shadow Board programme has benefits for the wider organisation and individual participants but in order to maximise the opportunity there are some key requirements to consider:

  • Support and commitment from the Executive team 
  • Consideration of who would be participating in the programme either through a talent management strategy or alternative method
  • NED identified who would Chair the Shadow Board
  • A designated point of contact at the organisation to work in partnership throughout the planning and delivery
  • Trust Board Secretary engagement 
  • Board dates for the next 6 months confirmed
  • Participants must be able to commit to all dates of the programme to be accepted onto it 
What are the benefits?

The benefits of inclusive and diverse leadership in creating the right culture for quality care has been evidenced by a number of studies and critical appraisals, most notably by Michael West.  The shadow board programme can help to:

  • Identify and support the development of talent management and succession planning within organisations and systems
  • Enable participants to:
    • gain invaluable practical experience of board level dynamics and decision-making
    • expand their strategic thinking and problem-solving capability in a live setting
  • Support board members to:
    • gain insights into local talent and support inclusive practice
    • benefit from enhanced diversity of thought and innovative ideas and solutions
Comments from recent participants:

"One of the tangibles for me is that I learned in greater detail how a board functions and how a board can be chaired well. During my time on Shadow Board I saw two very different, but equally effective chairing styles and I learned from those. I also now have the confidence to undertake a systems leadership role in which I chair a Board, which I might not have been able to do before."

"Got to know senior operational colleagues well, developed a better understanding of their roles and appreciated their perspectives more fully and what those different lenses brought to the discussion."

Expressions of interest

Expressions of interest for the 2020 Shadow Board programme have now closed, please contact us directly at for further information. 

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