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Mayes Wilson & Associates

Throw your board agenda out the window

Sara Wilson, CPCC, ACC |

Have you tried implementing any of the suggestions from my recent blog: Is your board stuck in the weeds?  Another tool that can foster high level board discussion is the board meeting agenda. I hear the rumbles of “I can’t change the board agenda, we’ve been doing it the same way for years.” Beware of letting habit become a goddess. If revamping the board agenda will increase engagement or get discussions out of the weeds, what’s holding you back?

To begin, involve the executive committee in a critical review and conversation about your board meeting agendas. Here are six conversation starters:

1. Is our agenda ordered with the most important topics early in the meeting?
2. Can board members look at the agenda and know what decisions need to be made at the meeting?
3. Are multiple people presenting information, or is it one voice?
4. Are we looking out the windshield or the rear view mirror?
5. Are there discussion questions?
6. Does our meeting typically end on time having covered the entire agenda?

If you answered “No” to any one of these questions, you can improve your board meeting agenda by trying some of the solutions below:

Agenda Order

Place the most important topics early on the agenda. People are typically more focused at the beginning of the meeting. Topics placed at the end of the meeting run the risk of being inadequately vetted if time runs out or some board members leave early.

Agenda Purpose

Indicate the purpose of agenda topics by putting “identifiers” next to important items. Be sure to put a legend on the agenda. Potential identifiers include:
D: Decision Required – state the decision to be made
R. Recommendation / Decision desired
I: Information.
S: Strategic

Agenda Focus

Make sure the majority of your board agenda is focused on the present and the future. Use the Rule of Thirds: 1/3 current, 1/3 past and 1/3 future. That means 2/3 of your meeting is looking out the front windshield *not* the rear view mirror. The purpose of the past 1/3 is for follow-up on previous items or to make decisions on pending items.

Agenda Timing

If your board meetings consistently run overtime make sure your agenda: has strategic topics; is a board-level discussion (not committee-level); and the conversation is actively managed to allow input while keeping discussions on track.

Need more help on revamping your board agenda? Email me for a complimentary 20-minute consultation on your last meeting agenda.

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