I’ve written on this topic previously but somewhat surprisingly the article seems to have been deleted from my website so here is a re-run.
The philosophy behind this agenda construction is that we get the best out of you at the beginning of the meeting – that’s when your intellectual energy is at its highest – as the meeting progresses intellectual energy and enthusiasm wain. So we want to address the areas where you can add the greatest value when we have the maximum intellectual energy and enthusiasm. The areas where you can add maximum value is in thinking about the future of the organisation. The area where you add the least value is in considering ‘water that’s gone under the bridge’ i.e. the CEO’s and other ‘business as usual’ reports.
To optimise board productivity we need an agenda that’s shaped like this:
- What has happened since last we met and does it make any difference?
- Strategic direction and other governance matters including governance action items from the last meeting
Matters for decision
- Topics for the next meeting
- Matters for routine approval
- Minutes of the last meeting
- Papers for information only
My colleague, Graeme Nahkies, describes this time as ‘limbering up’. It’s a social time to catch up with those you are going to work with for the next couple of hours – chit chat time.
This is the time for the Chair to set the tone for the meeting by outlining particular points in the agenda that the board needs to specifically focus on.
Are the normal courtesy
What has happened since last we met and does it make any difference?
This is the opportunity for the Chair to invite each board member to contribute anything they have heard, seen, read etc that may have an influence on the organisation. It’s not a decision making item nor an item for lengthy discussion – just an opportunity to get relevant items on to the radar screen.
This is the heart of the meeting where the board considers its Statement of Strategic Aspirations – the future direction of the organisation. It’s also where any governance matters arising (action plans)from the previous meeting are considered. (Any operational matters arising from the previous meeting should be included in the CEO’s report)
Other governance matters such as Policy review, risk review, stakeholder management, strategic monitoring, and matters for decision are considered.
Topics for the next meeting
The board meeting is the board’s meeting – not the CEO’s and not the Chair’s, so the board should decide what matters they want to see on the next agenda.
These are typically ‘water that’s gone under the bridge’ matters and can almost be taken as read. If the CEO wants to raise a matter of strategic significance then it should be dealt with as a separate report under item 4 – not included as part of the CEO’s (or financial) report.
Matters for routine approval
These are items which don’t need any discussion but do need the board’s approval.
Minutes of the last meeting
These should be out within 48 hours of the meeting being over, accepted within a further 24 hours and then they are finished. So there should be no discussion, just a motion to adopt them.
Papers for information only
Time and again in reviewing board performance, it is quickly apparent that board’s often get bogged down considering papers which really should be treated as ‘for information only’.
The opportunity for the Chair to sum up what the meeting has covered and what items are to be dealt with at the next meeting
This agenda construction may need some further explanation for those who have always done it the ‘old way’ – I’d be happy to talk to your board on why this agenda construction is such a powerful productivity tool.