The board meeting was scheduled for that night and the chair was pulling hair and grinding teeth in frustration. “There is no use in putting together an agenda, it never works.” Agenda madness had struck again.

He had done everything right. The meeting had been on everyone’s calendar for a month. Two weeks before hand, everyone was e-mailed a reminder about the meeting. An agenda had been sent out one week before the meeting. The bulletin from the Sunday before the meeting contained an announcement of place and time. 

Yet the morning saw three “special requests” to appear at the board tonight and two “emergency items” needing to be handled. All the preparation had been for nothing.

The chair’s observation was spot on: agendas don’t work.

People work.

The goal of any chair of a committee, board, or council is to maximize the value of the time that people spend together in the meeting. The agenda is the foundation for saying no.

Over the years, I’ve discovered three questions that must be asked of each and every issue when planning what items should appear before a committee, board, or council:

  • Is there an item that can quickly be disposed of by delegating it to a smaller group with power to act or recommend? Ruthlessly applying the Biblical principle of “High Accountability/Low Control” streamlines meetings, empowers people and efficiently get things done.
  • Is the issue one of policy, personnel, finance, or something else? Categorizing the issues helps to place them in proper perspective and can point out possible interactions and consequences between issue decisions.
  •  Is there an issue with a hard deadline for a response? You would think this would be a “no-brainer” yet there are far too many times when a meeting goes “extra innings” because an issue with a hard deadline was scheduled to be discussed last.

Asking and answering these three questions of each issue while putting together the agenda, gives the chair the foundation and confidence to say what often needs to be said to last minute requests.


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