According to research, 9 out of 10 strategies fail to be implemented successfully. One would ask how this is possible. At board meetings we reach consensus, the vote passes, commitments are reflected in the minutes, and performance measures were set.
Everyone has good intentions. But the pressures of competing priorities and limited time often put organizational work on the back burner.
The Board Meeting Phases
Board meetings have three phases. The planning phase crafts an agenda, gives notice, calls for a quorum and prepares reports for discussions. The second phase is the meeting itself, requiring a significant investment of time and energy by the executive director.
The third phase is “after the board meeting.” It requires work. Enthusiasm and good intentions will not ensure that the work gets done. Improve outcomes with some of these practices.
Meeting Closure– As the meeting ends, confirm the actions that have been agreed upon and ensure leadership is aware, and understand deadlines and the next steps. This reinforces the importance of what was discussed and everyone’s expectations.
Minutes– Draft and distribute the minutes promptly after the meeting. The quicker the minutes are distributed, the greater likelihood that leaders will use them as reminders of commitments.
Action Plan– Create an action plan based upon commitments, conversations and the minutes. While the minutes document the actions of the board, the action plan identifies performance measures, deadlines and accountability. The common form is often a table or matrix.
Board Portal– Post the minutes and action plan to a shared site such as Dropbox so that leaders and staff can review deadlines and progress. Circulate the documents promptly after the meeting.
Alignment– Compare the decisions at the board meeting with the budget and strategic plan. Actions of the board may affect these documents.
Staff Awareness– If staff members don’t attend board meetings there may be anxiety about board actions. Meet with the staff soon after the meeting to inform them of conversations.
Workload– Nearly every board meeting results in tasks, research and reports. With busy workloads, everything cannot be done immediately. The worst thing would be to set tasks aside, forget and return to the next meeting unprepared. Set reminders about deadlines using a manual calendar or an online solutions such as Remindeo.com.
Committees– Much of the work resulting from board meetings relies on committees. Communicate the board’s directives to committee chairs.
Dashboards– To report progress at the next board meeting, consider utilizing a visual dashboard in place of written or verbal reports.
Policies– If the board approved or amended organizational policies, be sure they are updated or archived in a compendium for reference by future boards.
One Voice– Leaders will be asked, “What happened at the board meeting?” Consider distribution of a board executive summary, sometimes called one voice, so directors share consistent messages about organizational decisions and priorities.
Make your own checklist of what needs to happen to wrap up a board meeting. There is little value to planning and executing the meeting by not having a system for implementing the meeting results.
Bill Pawlucy, MPA, CAE, IOM, is founder of Association Options, Inc. a company that focuses on practical strategic planning (corporate and nonprofit), management assessments, Baldrige Award process implementation, AMC search and evaluation, facilitation, and governance modeling. He is also the executive director of the International Association of Interviewers and is an appointee to the U.S. Department of Commerce Board of Examiners for the Baldrige Presidential Award.