I believe that most board members intend to keep their commitments, but what sounds like a simple task while seated at board table becomes a monumental challenge when real life intervenes. This is also true for association management company executives. The difference is that we have to keep our commitments to our clients or we run the risk of losing a contract.
I have learned good minutes are the key to action and accountability. The worst boards are the ones where the elected secretary does the minutes â€“ late and sketchy. People are confused after the board meeting about what they are supposed to do and when.
There is a simple cure! If possible, offer to take the minutes as part of the service you provide â€“ perhaps just short term to establish a format and train the secretary. Whenever the board decides somebody (board or staff) is going to do something, write it down as an action item â€“ with the personâ€™s name attached. If a completion date is not mentioned, ask the board when it is due (for the minutes). If there is discussion without action, I recommend asking the board if there an action item you should be recording.
Number each action item and make them really stand out in the minutes. I indent them and make them in bold! Then at the end of the minutes, on a separate sheet, I cut and paste all of the action items into a list.
The minutes ideally should go out shortly after the meeting, especially if there are a number of action items. This jogs the memory and gives time for action.
At the start of each board meeting, after the minutes and financials, I have my client boards review the list of action items. Most people, knowing that they are going to have to report to the board, come prepared and on-time. Why? Because they donâ€™t want to have a â€œthe dog ate my homework moment.â€
One of our client boards includes an action item completion ratio as part of their dashboard indicators report. When the action items list is reviewed at each meeting, the ratio is given. BTWâ€”Staff actions also go on the list, so we are as accountable as they are.
This strategy, though time-consuming and sometimes ego-bruising, is really just a way to change organizational culture. After several board meetings of 100% accountability, boards begin to fall into line. Board members who are â€œall talk and no actionâ€ sometimes resign (and is that really such a bad thing?).
We are all little kids who donâ€™t want to do our homework if nobody cares whether we did it or not. If it is important enough to list as an action item, it is important enough to ask whether it got done or not.