Three Ingredients for Meetings: Agendas, Minutes and Follow up Actions

 

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  1. There must be a realistic Agenda (list of topics or matters to be covered)
  2. There must be a record the issues discussed and the decisions made in the Minutes
  3. There must be a list and delegation of Follow up Actions

People from all walks of life find their way on to Boards and Committees. There are tens of thousands of sporting clubs, school councils, church groups and non-profit social groups in Australia, and each one of them requires a Committee or Board to oversee their management. There is a growing need for a simple step-by-step guide for those who might not be sure of their rights and responsibilities as a Committee or Board member.

Take mother of two and country town Mum, Jasmine Schiel, who finds herself on the Committee of her 14-year-old daughter’s netball team. Never having been on a Board or Committee before, she is understandably nervous about what she can say or do. Can she raise issues that have concerned her? How does an Agenda work? Will every word she says be recorded in the Minutes? What is the role of the Chairperson and what is Jasmine’s role?

Every meeting has to have three elements:

  1. Agenda
  • There need to be reasons to meet, particular things need to be discussed and sorted out. Most meetings, therefore, write down and agree on what topics are to be covered. This gives the meeting a structure and agreed purpose, and it also ensures that the meeting doesn’t go forever on one hand, and that important topics don’t get missed out on the other.
  • A well thought-out Agenda will help make the meeting a smooth one. Don’t crowd the Agenda with too many items, and try not to leave difficult topics to the last; members get tired by the end and either delay a resolution or push one through that requires more consideration.
  1. Minutes
  • It’s very important to write down (record) the matters discussed and agreed upon, or not agreed upon, at the meeting. This ensures things aren’t forgotten and that the range of matters raised are stored for future reference if required.
  • Interestingly, Minutes are the first things future historians might look at if they are writing the history of a particular enterprise or activity. Minutes give an insight to the topical issues of the day. Minutes also record the follow up actions arising out of a meeting.
  • The Minutes need to record all decisions taken by the Committee or Board as a minimum. Every Agenda item should also record the general direction of the discussion that took place. Sometimes Minute-takers, in their enthusiasm to be thorough, write down who said what, and the Minutes can read like a mini novel. This isn’t necessary. Rather the Minutes should reflect the broad direction of a discussion with the key issues covered being recorded.
  • Sometimes a particular member may wish to have their comment recorded, particularly if they have an alternative view to that of the group, which is perfectly acceptable.
  1. Follow up actions
  • Without Follow up actions, a meeting is just people talking. Talking alone isn’t a bad thing, as it can often help meeting participants clarify their own thinking on a particular matter. But if a Committee or Board does little else then perhaps there is too much talking and not enough action.

The Board Portal at OurCatHerder.com helps the most casual (and experienced) meeting attendee follow these three essential ingredients. OurCatHerder has built-in functions helping everyone stay on the Agenda, write the Minutes and monitor all Follow-up Actions.

 

The cost of a Board

imagesA Board or a Committee are essential to the running of for-profit and not-for-profit entities. But do they cost more than they contribute?

Board

A Board is a collection of individuals, elected or appointed, who jointly direct and oversee the activities of an organisation, whether for profit or not-for-profit. Other descriptions of this collection of individuals include Boards of Governors, of Management, of Trustees, and of Directors to name a few.

Typical duties include:
• governing the organisation by establishing broad policies and objectives;
• agreeing on the organisation’s Strategic Direction;
• selecting, appointing, supporting and reviewing the performance of the CEO
• ensuring the availability of adequate financial resources;
• approving annual budgets;
• accounting to the stakeholders for the organization’s performance;
• setting the salaries and compensation of company management;

The law in most jurisdictions requires that Directors put aside their private interests. Their interests are put aside and those of any other individual or organisation they might have an association with (direct or indirect). This way they can act solely, without conflict, in the interests of the organisation they are a Board member of.

Committee
A person or group of individuals elected or appointed to perform some service or function, and to investigate, report on, or act upon a particular matter or matters.

Some Committees, particularly in the not-for-profit sector, operate in the manner of a Board, yet are referred to as a ‘Committee’.

Cost-benefit of Board or Committee
Whatever its name, someone has to manage the resources of the meeting. Typically these resources include communications, Agendas, Minutes and Follow up Actions. The cost of the time spent managing these resources is rarely measured. Indeed, in the not-for-profit sector especially, frustrations occur when the value of the resources spent to manage a Committee or Board is greater than the value of the contribution the group offers.

The Board portal at Our Cat Herder will save staff time preparing, photocopying, collating and distributing papers, taking Minutes and chasing up Follow up Actions. This saving will help align the cost of managing Committee resources with the value of its contribution.

 

Management, Boards & Other People

ConductorManagement is getting things done through other people.

These were the words of Mary Parker Follett (1868 – 1933) an American social worker, management consultant and pioneer in the fields of organizational theory and organizational behaviour.

Along with Lillian Gilbreth (1878 – 1972), Mary Follett was one of the two great (women) management gurus in the early days of classical management theory.

So how does this relate to a Board of Management? Boards can only do ‘things’ through other people.

One of the most important tasks falling to a Board is the hiring, or firing, of a CEO. Having hired a CEO, it is the Board’s role to support him/her in harnessing company resources in order to implement tasks designed to achieve organisational goals. By reaching goals the organisation is moving toward realising its mission and vision.

The CEO’s success is the Board’s success; the CEO’s failure is the Board’s failure.

If a Board is continually discussing day-to-day operations, and members seem to know better how to run the organisation then, by implication, there’s a lack confidence in the CEO and/or senior management. If so then the Board needs to evaluate the performance of the CEO in light of the organisation’s strategic plan, and decide whether they made the right decision in employing him/her , or whether he/she is the right person for the job. Maybe it needs to review the Strategic Plan.

An effective Board appoints a leader as CEO, and then having established the framework to operate in, supports him/her to get on with the business of realising strategic goals and, thereby, the organisation’s mission and vision.

Management, whether its a Board or Management, or day-to-day managers, is getting things done through other people.

 

Three Essentials of Successful Meetings

Three Sisters. Photo: Phil Hart

Three Sisters. Photo: Phil Hart

The power of three is universal; the tripartite nature of the world is heaven, earth, and water.

Life itself is birth, life and death. It is the beginning, middle and end. Three is a complete cycle unto itself; it is past, present and future. And, yes, successful meetings have three essential elements.

A good meeting, whether of the Board of a multinational, or a fundraising committee of your local basketball team, will always have 3 essential components:

1. There must be a reason to meet

This expresses itself in the form of an Agenda; a list of topics to discuss. Generally attendees will know what the meeting topics are before the meeting, and be in agreement with them.

2. There needs to be a record of the meeting’s proceedings; Minutes

Without accepted Minutes there could be future disagreements between participants about who said what, and what was agreed, or not agreed, on a particular matter. Minutes are also a record for future meeting participants, regulatory authorities, or appropriate parties with an interest in the entity and its meeting(s).

3. And here’s the sucker-punch….

For a meeting to be effective and successful, follow up Actions are required. Some follow up Actions can be internal, such as determining a view on a particular matter, where one is required, and did not exist prior to the meeting; eg a policy on safety. Other follow up Actions are explicit, and require one or more individuals to do certain actions outside the meeting to realise particular objectives.

Without internal, or explicit, follow up Actions, the meeting was simply people talking, and not going anywhere.

Successful meetings rely on having each of these components, and if any one of them are missing then, like the three-legged stool, the whole enterprise will not function properly.

The new secure, Cloud-based platform at www.OurCatHerder.com automates and manages these three components, with flexible Agenda-making, easy & real-time Minute-taking, and a follow up Action-tracker tool that ensures every meeting realises a purposeful outcome.

OurCatherder.com will improve any meeting’s effectiveness, ensuring the systemised management of Agendas, Minutes and Follow up Actions (and a whole lot more).

 

To portal or not to portal?

reminder smallA Board portal is an online environment in which Board members and executive officers can better manage Communications, Agendas, Minutes and supporting documents, with a view to reducing paper, and streamlining the process of distributing and managing Board resources.

Security is an important consideration. What may not be known is that, in many cases, documents are more secure using Board portal/Cloud technology than the current old fashioned way of managing papers. With, say, 7 Board members receiving couriered or posted papers there are multiple ways that documents can go astray, from leaving them in airport lounges or taxis, to losing them at the office, or even throwing them in an open access trash receptacle. Over time members can become blasé about their responsibility to keep documents secure.

Once the papers have left the office from which they were generated all security controls are potentially compromised.

To suggest that Board portals increase the risk of compromising security implies that current paper-based systems are free of security risk. There’s plenty of evidence to the contrary; one just needs to talk to Board secretaries and executive officers who have to find replacement papers for Board members who have misplaced theirs.

Not using Board portals for fear of security breaches is like refusing to fly for fear of planes crashing, when there is a higher statistical likelihood of a fatality ‘crossing the road’; it’s simply not rational to avoid flying in the face of the more probable risk of injury crossing the road.

Until there is evidence of hackers regularly breaking into Board portal papers, it might be better to focus on maximising the benefits technology can offer, while accepting that security is everyone’s responsibility.

 

Online Board Portals Becoming Essential

egovernance The team at Our Cat Herder knows that online Board portals are an important development in modernising the way boards and committees are managed. But don’t just take it from us! Better Boards Australasia has been discussing the growth in Board portals in both non-profit and for-profit environments. They note the cost-effective and time-saving opportunities an online Board portal offers. Check out the Better Boards article for further reading on how to improve Board/Committee operations by embracing technology like that on offer at Our Cat Herder.

 

It’s time for football clubs to welcome more women on boards

Kate Gould PicAT a time when sporting clubs are looking for any edge in an increasingly cluttered market, it seems they continue to overlook one of their most valuable assets.

Although women play in their teams, watch from their stands and are involved in their administrations sport still runs a distant second when it comes to including them in high-level decision making.

With the SAJC, SACA and the Adelaide Football Club all looking for board candidates this year it remains to be seen if they get the right “man” for the job. It’s an issue that unites traditional foes Port Adelaide and the Crows, with each of their sole female board representatives unified on the role of women at board level.

“What football clubs do now is yes, primarily based around the AFL team, but there is so much more to it than that and it’s a market that very much involves women,” said the Power’s Amanda Vanstone. “The Adelaide Football Club is a business and like any business it needs diversity. The viewpoint that because football is played by a male team it should be governed by men is irrelevant,” said Kate Gould.

Read On

by Ali Clarke, Adelaide Advertiser 9 August 2014

 

Board Members with Ego

bearsHow many meetings can you think of where Board members talked and talked…and talked?

Or, what about those meetings where Members debated minor matters at great length, making lengthy speeches in the process, while motions on major or significant strategic issues were passed with barely any discussion at all?

How many Board members can you recall who seemed filled with hubris; a sense of their own importance? “I’ve been placed on the Board of this symphony orchestra because I’m successful in business, so you should listen to my advice; I think the orchestra should play more Stockhausen.”

Does a person who is successful in business, say in the field of insurance, mean that he/she should give advice to the staff about how they should go about running a symphony orchestra? An arts manager would be no more equipped to advise this individual Board member about insurance than would the Board member about what an Orchestra should play.

So why then is the successful insurance executive on the Board in the first place?

Generally, it’s thought that people with skills to contribute make good Board members, particularly – though not limited to – non-profits. The Insurance person obviously has skills in managing an insurance company, but this does not mean his/her experience transfers to advising what a symphony orchestra should play? The specific skills or expertise Board Members hold should be clarified by the Chair, and the individual concerned. That person’s contributions to the enterprise might then be better directed to their sphere of knowledge and experience.

In other words, stick with what you know, and hold back and listen on topics that aren’t necessarily your domain. If a Board Member hasn’t the professional awareness to self-administer this, then perhaps they ought not to be on the Board.

 

The Business of Board and Committee Meetings

iiemt images_Board-MeetingWhat is the business of Board and Committee Meetings?

Around the world there are countless books, articles, journals and papers written about Management, Management Theory, Governance, the functions of Boards, and so on. The world is much taken up with trying to guide those tasked with making decisions, shadowed by an increasingly complex body of regulation and obligation falling to those holding Board and or Committee positions.

Individuals with differing backgrounds, experiences and values come together to evaluate information, form a collective view and make decisions, about matters that often have competing interests; being on a Board or Committee can sometimes seem complex and onerous .

The business of conducting a Board or Committee meeting is, however, quite a simple affair. A number of people get together, either physically or virtually, gathered around an Agenda detailing matters requiring noting, or a decision. Agenda items are accompanied by background information. This informs a discussion involving individual and collective consideration and evaluation, informing a vote which leads to a decision. If a decision isn’t required, then the Board will note the information presumably for future use.

No matter how many new text books are written, and no matter how technical the academics might make it, the simple fact is every Board or Committee meeting is in the business of setting an agenda, distributing background information, discussing and evaluating matters, and either noting information for future use, or for making a decision requiring a vote.

For many Executive Officers or Secretaries to Boards, preparing the mechanics of meetings takes place in an old fashioned manner involving photocopying, collating, binding and posting or couriering. Records are held in burgeoning physical folders or archives, and references to past decisions are difficult to find.

If making decisions on Boards can be complicated, the process of organising and supporting the meeting need not be. Executive Assistants spend many hours photocopying forests of paper, then there’s the mind-numbing job of compiling and binding papers followed by the costly business of sending papers out, usually by courier.

Our Cat Herder is a Cloud-based Board and Committee management portal removing all paper, manual handling and courier/postage costs. Board or Committee members receive all papers online, and a secure chatroom is provided for discussion in-between meetings. If members are delegated tasks as follow up actions then Our Cat Herder sends gentle reminders to their email. All past Minutes, Strategic Plans and Constitutions and other important documents can be stored in the Archive for 24/7 reference.

Our Cat Herder brings Board and Committee management into the 21st Century, and it saves money.