A little preparation can go a long way – getting the board to agree on a board meeting schedule at the first meeting after the AGM means everyone (board members, CEO, and senior staff) know the dates for the board meetings throughout the year.
Board papers need to be out no later than 7 days prior to the meeting. It’s all very well for the CEO to say that ‘there’s one more paper we need to include’ but holding the board papers back because the staff didn’t do their preparation assumes that board members don’t have any other activities they are involved in. A board member might be travelling, might have a number of other meetings etc. so that receiving the papers (whether electronically or in hard copy) a day or two before the meeting inevitably leads to inadequate consideration of the paper.
Tabling papers at the meeting is a major ‘no- no’. Some board members will have the ability to scan a paper and understand the gist of it, while other board members will still be on the first paragraph. That’s not a criticism, it’s just the way we are wired. How then, can we have an informed discussion under those circumstances? Unless the paper is of extreme urgency, tabling a paper says to me that the CEO/staff do not respect the board members time.
Agenda construction is critical to an effective board meeting. I’ve written previously on how to construct an effective agenda (www.boardsense.co.nz, LinkedIn topics A-Z, A Board meeting agenda to optimise board productivity) and using this approach ensures that only papers relevant to the topics under discussion at this board meeting are issued. Not only that but the order in which papers are considered is important. So often the minutes of the last meeting are considered early on in the meeting where they invite interrogation, particularly if they haven’t been previously signed off.
The minutes of the meeting should be available within 48 hours of the meeting, any comments or alterations agreed to within the next 24 hours and then the minutes are done. All board members have a copy so that at the next meeting it is a two second item on the agenda to adopt the minutes – no further discussion.
So in summary:
Agree a board meeting timetable
Agree on the utilisation of a current good governance practice board agenda
Ensure board papers are issued/available 7 days prior to the meeting
No ‘tabling’ of board papers at the meeting
Minutes are out and agreed to within 3 days of the meeting being over
Only send out material relevant to the agenda