The issue, as anyone who has served on a board or managed a board can tell you, is that most board meetings are boring and ineffective. They tend to focus on reporting instead of using their time to discuss important matters and to make effective decisions. The International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals (IARP) is no different, with five different sections and several committees that all want to ensure their work toward ongoing objectives is shared with the other board members. As a result, this reporting took approximately three-quarters of each meeting—leaving little time to work together to solve issues or to further develop their strategic plans.
The leadership and staff spent a great deal of time discussing how to more effectively use staff and volunteer time before, during and after board meetings; so in June 2018, they began utilizing a standard report template that each board member would upload onto their Higher Logic folder/file system. A file system had been built within their Board of Directors folder system with a folder for each board meeting and within those, folders for an agenda, board reports, financials as well as additional items. Each month, a reminder email would be sent to the board 5-7 days prior to the meeting that included the directions on how to upload the file. This process has worked extremely well and has saved staff many hours working to obtain, compile and deliver board reports. This process was well received and has had very positive feedback
With the standard report process in place, the leadership decided to take things a step further and proceeded to re-organize their board agenda. In June 2019, they eliminated reporting items and requested from board members agenda items that would drive discussions. They worked with staff to build a new agenda template and new processes which included requiring board members to read through all of the uploaded reports prior to each meeting to be prepared.
The first step that was implemented involved staff working with the board to establish a roll-out timeline to coincide with one of IARP’s three in-person board meetings where a full explanation of the reasoning could be shared, and a complete review of the materials and processes would be communicated. The reason for the in-person explanation and directive was to ensure that each board member understood the purpose and the new process, which would then lead to greater participation.
The second step included developing thorough explanations and directions for the new process and tools. Many board members were unsure about their ability to work within the new system—but with consistent messaging and patient assistance, we have been able to ease them into the new process. We have worked closely with our volunteers for the first few months to coach them how to think differently and to establish timelines and consistent directives.
The final process included a reminder email sent by staff 5-7 days prior to each board meeting. The reminder included directions on how to upload their reports as well as a request for discussion/decision agenda items no less than 3 days prior to the board meeting so the agenda could be uploaded with plenty of time for review.
As a result of implementing this new agenda, the IARP board meetings now consist of meaningful dialogue and effective decision making. We have received very positive feedback as the board has been able to focus more time on strategic plans, future objectives and necessary discussions/decisions. They have seen less wasted time and consequently feel more involved and capable of leading others.
To manage ongoing effectiveness, the board will assess the process annually and will correct course as necessary.