Monday, January 17, 2011

The Tell-Tale Agenda

Call me a governance wonk. Who else reads the agenda of board meetings like a love letter? For most of us, a board meeting agenda is a necessary evil to keep us on time and on track. A deeper look at the agenda shows that it can be a keen instrument for executive leadership in advancing a policy-making board. Consider these questions:
  • Who writes your board agenda? Many board agendas are products of accumulated staff reports. It is a hodge-podge of information collected to woo and wow the board. If the agenda is an effective leadership instrument, however, it is a product of executive leadership coordinated with the board chair and nuanced by the members of the board itself.
  • What is the focus of your board agenda? The focus of the board agenda should not be on information. Prior mailings from the CEO and staff should be read in advance by board members so that only highlights from the reports or new information will take up meeting time. Like a laser beam, then, the focus of the agenda will be upon implementing existing policy and developing new policy as needed.
  • What is the rhythm for your board agenda? Think of your board agenda as the score for a symphony with the CEO as the composer and the board chair as the conductor. An opening sonata of devotions and the CEO report sets the theme and the tone for the meeting. While energy is high and attention is focused, important policy issues become the movements of the symphony with the rising sound of full discussion and the faster beat of final decision. Interludes between the movements give time for an executive session, a consent agenda, and a learning period for board development. A coda of benediction then closes the meeting with the members having heard the grand theme of the organizational mission played over and over again. And, don’t forget intermissions. Skillfully used, they can save the meeting.

No comments:

Post a Comment