Author's Name: Stephen Lake
Date: Mon 19 Oct 2015

Could your Board Meetings be better?

Board meetings are your organisations key decision making forum. How well are yours working? Do you regularly run out of time? Do you stick to the agenda? Is there an agenda? Are papers circulated in advance? Do you feel that the meetings are effective?

Here are some suggested best practices that your Board might consider adopting for their meetings:

Annual Calendar - establish and set an annual calendar at the beginning of the year. This will assist you achieve optimal attendance by Board members. Consider which meetings will be face to face and which will be by teleconference. Allocate specific themes to meetings: budget review, strategy review, CEO review, Board Performance Review etc. Ensure that the routine of annual business is reflected in the calendar.

Agenda - Always set and circulate an agenda in advance - This is the Chairman's responsibility. The Chairman should canvass Board members and the CEO (if employed) for their agendas and issues well in advance of each meeting. The Secretary should facilitate production of the agenda from the Chair's direction.

Provide Board only time - If your CEO or other non Board members attend the Board, ensure that there is specific Board only time and that a situation does not arise where these non Board members expect to attend all the time.

Reports in Advance of the Meeting - Set an expectation that information / decision support papers are submitted in advance for each agenda item.

Insist on Motions - Every agenda item should have a proposed outcome that is put to the meeting for endorsement or rejection.

Capture risks and avoid conflicts - Become risk aware. Papers should consider risk as an essential criteria for decision making. Risks should be recorded as they are recognised. Likewise, avoid conflicts of interest by asking at the start of every meeting if any Board member needs to declare a potential conflict of interest.

Don't be distracted by Correspondence - Correspondence should be received and noted. If an item of correspondence deserves debate then the agenda should include a specific agenda item. Likewise, when confirming the minutes of the previous meeting done be distracted from the agenda by "Business Arising". 

No General Business - Avoid agenda items like "General Business" and "Other Matters" that open the doors to potentially unstructured, un-researched and lengthy discussion. Other Board members deserve to be forewarned and prepared for a discussion. A genuinely urgent matter can be raised with the Chair before the meeting and added to the agenda with the meeting's permission.

Keep minutes short - The purpose of minutes is to record that a meeting occurred, who attended and the decisions taken. Conversations, points of view, who said what etc. are immaterial. The exception to this is where a member wishes their dissent recorded. Future Boards may review your minutes so be sure that they cannot be misinterpreted or misunderstood by those who were not present.

Meetings should not be recorded - technology has provided the opportunity to record meetings. If this is done to facilitate production of the minutes then the recordings should be destroyed after the minutes have been produced.

Balance your meetings - Ensure that your Board achieves an appropriate balance in the apportionment of meeting time between the strategic, tactical and operational.

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