Boost Efficiency and Outcomes with a Proper Board Meeting Agenda
By Leigh Wintz, FASAE, CAE, PRP
Principal Consultant, Tecker International, LLC
Preparing a board meeting agenda is one of the most important jobs of the leadership partnership. The association CEO and Board Chair may struggle to design a productive and engaging session if they feel obligated to use the same old "standard order of business" which takes up new business -- often the most interesting part -- last. Hearing (or worse - reading) minutes of the last meeting, officer and committee reports can make your directors "check out" before you get to the "good stuff." Precious face-to-face time is lost at board meetings when directors spend their time discussing topics or reviewing reports that could be better handled through email or a consent agenda.
A strategic board meeting agenda uses strategy as the basis to inform discussion and decision-making. Don't be afraid to re-design the board meeting agenda to improve the board's engagement. We recommend a four-part agenda addressing:
- Discussion of mega-issues
- Review and adjustment of strategy
- Policy: public and operational
- Routine board business.
Assigning topics to one of these 4 major components could yield a sample board meeting agenda such as the one below. The sample is for a 1-day, in person session, rich in both dialogue and deliberation.
Sample Board Meeting Agenda
Strategic Board Meeting
November 4, 2016 | 9:00 a.m. | Hotel X | Anytown, Canada
Welcome and Opening Business Items (9:00 a.m. -- 9:30 a.m.)
- Call to Order
- Review of guidelines for discussion
- Confidentiality reminders
- Approval of Agenda (and adoption of consent agenda) (action)
Discussion of Mega Issue #1 (Volunteerism) (9:30 a.m. -- 11:30 a.m.)
- How can WXYZ encourage more volunteerism and create more opportunity for member engagement?
We will review the level 1 background paper prepared by Volunteerism task force and sent to all in advance of the meeting. The board will validate the findings to the strategic questions and brainstorm possible options and alternatives.
Lunch (11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)
- Buffet luncheon will be served in the meeting room.
Discussion of Mega Issue #2 (Legislative) (12:30 p.m. -- 1:30 p.m.)
- How can WXYZ capitalize on federal legislative issues/changes to benefit the association and provide assistance to members?
The board will review the level 2 background paper prepared by staff and sent out to all in advance of the meeting. Level 2 paper contains the advantages and disadvantages of the options and alternatives generated by the board at our last face to face meeting. It is anticipated that the board will deliberate and prepare a motion for further action. (action)
Review and Adjustment of Strategy (1:30 p.m. -- 3:00 p.m.)
- Evaluation of new education initiative launched at Spring Caucus. Based on performance criteria established in advance of the launch, the board will need to determine whether to proceed as planned, invest additional funds or abandon the project.
- Results of strategic program assessment for WXYZ certificate program are ready for board dialogue and deliberation (report sent in advance). The program rated as follows: Low Program Attractiveness, Strong Competitive Position, and High Alternative Coverage with a generic strategy of: Build Up the Best Competitor which in this case is our sister association, ABCD.
- Consideration of change in retirement plan for WXYZ employees
Policy Determination (3:15 p.m. -- 4:45 p.m.)
- CMAC Board Committee Report (for discussion)
- Legislative Agenda for 2016-2017 (action)
- FY16 Audit (action)
- Consideration of change in retirement plan for WXYZ employees
Routine Board Business (4:15 p.m. -- 4:45 p.m.)
- Consent agenda (action)
- August 20, 2016 Executive Committee Meeting Minutes
- August 20, 2016 Board of Directors Meeting Minutes
- Committee Leader changes
- 2017 Elections Manual
- Announcements (President, Executive Director)
- Evaluation of Board Meeting
Note that the sample agenda is timed. Thought should be given to how much time each item should take, how one aspect affects the flow of the meeting and natural break times in a meeting. While changes might need to be made on the fly, a well-thought out timed agenda will help the organization resist the temptation to add things, skip controversial items or avoid making decisions because "we ran out of time." Seeing an agenda in advance with substantial subjects for dialogue and deliberation reinforces the importance of in-person attendance.
Consent agendas help to save time at meetings -- time that can be spent having strategic discussions. When organizations can meet only a few times a year, we recommend you take a consent agenda one step further and simply email reports requiring no action to board members as soon as they are ready. Contemporary boards find that a continuous stream of information is more palatable, and easier to digest, than getting a big, fat board book that no one reads until they are on the airplane to the board meeting. Many organizations are posting reports and information in a special board section of the website.
It is helpful to label each item sent or posted with one of three actions:
- For information (read at your leisure);
- Monitoring (reports that document board oversight);
- Decision making (background information that will help the board make informed decisions after discussion).
Using a four part, timed agenda, a consent agenda and sending out reports requiring no action as they are ready, ensures that the time directors spend together can be spent discussing the strategic future of the organization.
The 2017 CSAE Symposium for Chief Staff and Chief Elected Officers
Leigh Wintz and Glenn Tecker are facilitating the 2017 CSAE Symposium for Chief Staff and Chief Elected Officers first session on February 27 and 28, 2017 at the Hilton Mississauga Meadowvale in Mississauga, ON. Early bird registration is available until Jan 15, 2017.
The second session is on March 2 and 3, 2017 at the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown Hotel Burnaby, BC. Early bird registration is available until Jan 15, 2017.
Leigh Wintz, FASAE, CAE, PRP, Principal Consultant with Tecker International LLC is a skilled facilitator with an energetic style and sense of humor. Leigh has worked to implement modern board governance techniques with clients in North America, Europe and Asia for more than 20 years. Her practical and real-world advice is borne out of 25 years of experience as an association CEO.