Achieving a productive meeting is a nightmare. Quote from Rework – “Meetings are toxic, they are usually about words and abstract concepts not real things, they usually convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute, they drift off-subject easier than a Chicago cab in a snowstorm and they require preparation that most people don’t have time for………..”
However we do need a minimum amount of meetings to get stuff done. Specifically here are a few simple rules to keep your Board Meetings productive:
- Based on the stage your company has reached, set out the key questions you want your Board Meeting to address. Early stage will have a different focus from the 20 year business. This will set the Agenda/framework.
- Appoint an acting chairperson for every meeting.
- Ensure all timetables are in place to generate timely short, simple reports/papers ahead of the meeting to support agenda items. Timely is much better than perfect.
- If decisions are needed, set the background story in advance to ensure discussion is kept productive and on point.
- Keep brief but relevant minutes.
- Trap all agreed actions with responsibilities and place them at the top of the minutes not the end.
- Always review previous actions as agenda item number 1. Follow through is imperative.
- Ensure each member attending the Board meeting is clear on expectations, think of it as a performance profile, especially non-executive directors.
- A word of warning on technology. Ensure whatever technology is deployed that it is reliable at both ends! Calling into a Board Meeting using your cell phone rarely works well.
- It seems obvious to me that all cell phones should be switched off and whilst using laptops or tablet devices makes sense, surfing the web needs to stop.
- Never say to someone you will think about it. Corporate speak for “you can forget me doing anything about that”
- The author of a report/paper should make it clear the key elements the audience should take from the report.
- Some Board meetings need 1 hour, some need 3 hours, some need a day.
- There is never a dumb question to ask at a Board Meeting.
- With any financial report remember if it’s interesting it’s probably wrong.
- The illustration of a point with a worked example is 1000% better than a rambling conceptual monologue.
- I would recommend a monthly meeting is adequate.
- Chairperson must be brutal on the allocation of time. I’ve seen the last item of R&D being reduced to a fast talking techno-babble.
- If items genuinely need more time, take them offline for a separate discussion but with a timetable to bring back to Board for a decision.
- Always keep a positive momentum moving forward and resist procrastination. You will never have all the facts & figures you’d like.
- It only takes a moment but ensure that everyone is available for the next meeting.
- AOB, “any other business” is a great slot for a final piece of good news.
Good comments. Unfortunately, few companies do a good job at this. The bigger issue is that even fewer boards are effective, sometimes due to the prep, but more often due to board level dynamics. One of the biggest fictions is that Boards provide adequate oversight on senior management or cpmapnies. This view comes from the recent troubles of way too many public companies as well as my participation in Board meetings over the last 10 years.
Couldn’t agree more. Expectations for Board Meetings are way too low.