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  4. Structuring meetings effectively including preparation, frequency, recording and communication

Principle 2

Structuring meetings effectively including preparation, frequency, recording and communication

Planning meetings

Many committee meetings are monthly, but many larger organisations that have effective reporting structures and sub-committees may meet bi-monthly or even every three months with the sub-committee meetings in between.  In periods of crisis, meetings may need to be more frequent.

The effectiveness of management committee meetings depends substantially on how well they are planned.  At least two weeks before a committee meeting, the chair (and the most senior staff member, if there is one) should sit down and plan the agenda in detail.  There are some short standard items, such as:

  • Welcome
  • Introductions (if there is a new committee member)
  • Apologies
  • Additions or amendments to the minutes of the previous meeting (which have been circulated with the agenda)
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Approval of the minutes
  • Identification of any items of Any Other Business, which need to be discussed under AOB at the end of the agenda
  • Date of the next meeting (usually at the end of the meeting)

As the primary responsibility of the management committee is good governance, the majority of the substantive items on the agenda should relate to the responsibilities highlighted in the Governance Code.  These items might include, for example, (although not all at the same meeting):

  • Monitoring report against the operational plan objectives
  • A finance variance report against budget
  • A compliance report (Health & safety, Safeguarding, or Data Protection, etc.)
  • Service delivery report
  • Review of the risk register
  • Human resources issues
  • Report from the most senior member of staff

Where possible, substantive agenda items should have a paper attached, circulated with the agenda at least a week before the meeting, which board members can read in advance.  The agenda should indicate what is expected of the management committee in relation to each item e.g. Is there a decision for the committee to take?  Does the committee need to approve expenditure?  Are there issues the committee needs to discuss in detail?  Does the paper simply need to be noted?  It can be helpful if the agenda indicates the length of time any particular item is expected to take.

It is the role of the chair to effectively plan meetings and then to chair the meeting to ensure all the agenda items and addressed effectively and efficiently. The role of the chairperson can be found here.

It is the role of the secretary to take the minutes of the meeting (sometimes this is done by a staff member).  The main focus of the minutes should be on any decisions that were made and any actions that were agreed.

Decision making

Management committees are responsible for taking major strategic decisions and need to take decisions jointly with other members.  In making any big decision, a number of steps are involved, including some or all of the following:

  • Information – ensuring the committee has read or heard all relevant information
  • The goal – what is our aim and is it consistent with the aim and direction of the organisation. Agreement on the goal is a crucial stage in decision making
  • Choices – what choices are available to us and what are the constraints and
  • The plan – how do we achieve our goal – what are the steps and what resources do we need

There are other situations where it is sensible to delegate the power to make day to day decisions to the chief officer or to a working group, for example to work out the details of carrying out a policy which the whole committee has agreed to.

Decision making is much more effective if the committee establishes not only what is to be done but also how and when it will be done and by whom.

There are two common methods of making decisions:

  1. By consensus and
  2. By taking a vote

Some organisations have a strong commitment to consensual decision making and only take a vote in exceptional circumstances.  Others routinely vote on issues.

Regardless of how decisions are taken, all committee members should be clear about exactly what has been decided and decisions should be clearly minuted.

Download:  Suggested Format for Minutes

Download:  Running Effective Meetings

The committee needs to agree how the decisions of the committee that may affect others are communicated.  If there is a senior member of staff, this may be through this person to other staff and/or volunteers.  Some management committees make the non-confidential part of their minutes publicly available.