Writing The Perfect Meeting Agenda – 5 Simple Rules
A recent ICSA review of the corporate governance practice in the NHS found that, despite evidence of the understanding of directors of good governance practice, on average, only 10% of agenda items relate to strategic issues. Given the key responsibility of any board to set the direction and strategy of its organisation, meeting agendas must keep the discussion focused on vision, mission and goals, as opposed to operational detail.
Creation and timely circulation of an agenda gives participants an opportunity to prepare for the meeting. It enables participants to give the Chairman feedback about the substance of the meeting and to make changes to the agenda as necessary, to include topics of special concern. Deviation from the agenda often results in poorly focused outcomes in terms of follow-up activity, agreed objectives and subsequent monitoring of the implementation of decisions.
The following items should appear on a typical board meeting agenda:
- The participants of the meeting;
- The items for discussion and action to be taken to accomplish a named purpose;
- The discussion time anticipated for each item;
- Meeting date, time and location; and
- Preparation required for the meeting, to include the review of documentation, data, prior meeting minutes, etc.
5 Fast Tips For Preparing A Board Meeting Agenda
1. Determine the goals of the meeting.
Work in conjunction with attendees to determine the purpose of the meeting; for example, status reporting, problem solving, etc.
2. Identify agenda items for the meeting.
Determine agenda items and related goals, the respective attendees responsible for leading each particular agenda item and the timings for discussions.
3. Organise the agenda.
Identify high priority items, or those that require lengthy discussion and position them at the top of the agenda and inferior items at the bottom.
4. Give advance direction.
Inform attendees if they are required to speak in relation to an agenda item or to bring anything with them to the meeting in advance of dispatching the agenda.
5. Conform to the agenda.
Begin and end the meeting on time and observe time allocations. Consider including a ‘round robin’ discussion after all agenda items have been addressed, with 5 minutes allocated per person to moot other relevant issues and note issues which arise, to be discussed at subsequent meetings.
The Importance Of An Agenda
The agenda is an imperative feature of, and the basis for, any meeting. It structures both the content of the meeting papers and the progress of the meeting itself. Meetings without firm direction are unlikely to be constructive, leading to few tangible or effective results. In addition, meeting participants may become disengaged if a meeting strays from the relevant topics, setting a poor precedent for future meetings and possibly discouraging future attendance.