In our work with boards and top teams we see a magnificent number of meeting agendas!
We notice that the level of innovation in terms of creating a real value-adding meeting agenda can be surprisingly low, and the structure of many agendas has not been updated for years.
At the same time, most participants typically agree that they would like to spend more time discussing the important strategic challenges, but find themselves caught up in information overload and various housekeeping or governance topics.
Usually, the agenda consists of various topics for information and a few for decision, but limited time set aside for thorough strategic discussions about the future of the company.
In order to ensure that participants’ time at meetings is spent well, it could be wise to look at the meeting agendas (and the annual wheel) with fresh eyes, and ask yourselves this question:
Looking 12-24 months ahead, what are the key strategic questions we should ask ourselves and ensure we rigorously discuss?
List all the questions you can think of, share them with the other meeting participants and prioritize the questions as a joint exercise.
Setting the agenda based on these key strategic questions will enable the board or the leadership team to focus on what matters most.
Historical financial data or other data just for information should be read in advance. If the participants have any questions to the material (for clarification purposes or similar), these can be flagged digitally and distributed to all participants before the meeting, so that answers can be prepared and shared at the meeting.
If there are no questions about the material, the board or the leadership team should aim for minimizing valuable meeting time spent on these updates. Instead, ensure that there is sufficient time set aside on the agenda for discussing the key strategic questions – and we mean that literally. By designing these agenda points as questions, participants will be mentally prepared and lined up for having a robust discussion.
If the discussion does not lead to a clear conclusion, do not see it as a failure. On the contrary, it is most likely because you have succeeded in picking an important and difficult topic. Park the question and ensure you revisit and continue the discussion at one of the coming meetings. Research shows that giving yourself distance from your first opinion and revisiting it after some time can create better decisions. So sleeping on a complicated matter is not a sign of indecisiveness, but rather of wisdom!
Leadership Advisor Group has helped many companies improve their board and leadership team agendas. If you’d like to hear more about our recommendations, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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