Some thoughts on minutes and agendas
Organisations often use standard formats for agendas and minutes but, if you are considering ways to make meetings more effective, we think it better to make up your own format and procedure, to be sure that they suit your organisation and support and invigorate the way it is governed.
Standard agendas can undermine effective meetings as they usually (unintentionally) obscure the main purpose of the meeting. People attending meetings need to be alerted to the intended focus points of the meeting so that they know how to prepare for the meeting. One (seemingly simple) idea for an agenda is to put the most important item first- so many times meetings cycle through theusual agenda items and then run out of time for the one crucial thing!
Most minutes record also that the meeting began with a review, corrections to, and then approval of the minutes of the previous meeting.
Now, although this is a rather standard approach, it often results in the meeting being bogged down in details from the very start and, especially if there has been a gap of more than a couple of weeks since that previous meeting, only those with superhuman powers of recall will be able to remember the discussions and decisions accurately enough to suggest substantive corrections. The corrections which are raised are most often spelling errors or typos, or when the item was about you, and then you do remember what was said!
It is best to check, correct and approve minutes as soon as possible after the meeting, while everyone still remembers it more or less accurately. Ideally, minutes should be sent out within a couple of days after the meeting with a request for corrections to be submitted within a week. The checking of previous minutes may then be omitted from the agenda of the following meeting, and only “action items” referred to.
The following are suggested components of minutes:
- Record of who was present and whether there was a quorum;
- Record of any ongoing or arising conflicts of interest;
- Summary of key discussions;
- Decisions made clearly recorded as such;
- Notes on action points, who is accountable for which, and delivery dates; and
- Date of next meeting.
Don’t be afraid to change things around, and aim for accuracy, brevity, focus and then a springboard for action!