This paper addresses recent calls to narrow the micro–macro gap in management research (Bamberger, 2008), by incorporating a macro-level context variable (country) in exploring micro-level determinants of board effectiveness. Following the integrated model proposed by Forbes and Milliken (1999), we identify three board processes as micro-level determinants of board effectiveness. Specifically, we focus on effort norms, cognitive conflicts and the use of knowledge and skills as determinants of board control and advisory task performance. Further, we consider how two different institutional settings influence board tasks, and how the context moderates the relationship between processes and tasks. Our hypotheses are tested on a survey-based dataset of 535 medium-sized and large industrial firms in Italy and Norway, which are considered to substantially differ along legal and cultural dimensions. The findings show that: (i) Board processes have a larger potential than demographic variables to explain board task performance; (ii) board task performance differs significantly between boards operating in different contexts; and (iii) national context moderates the relationships between board processes and board task performance. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.