Considerations for Boards in 2021

Much has happened in the world since February 2020. For companies and organizations all over the globe, innovative, fast paced thinking from Executive Teams and Boards have been the key to navigating the global pandemic. Board members have had to interact with each other in different ways - used to face-to-face meetings, they’re now increasingly making decisions via video calls.

Board software has also been useful to support Board members and administrators in simplifying the circulation of Board materials prior to meetings, streamlining decision making prior to Board meetings, supporting online Board meetings and facilitating post-Board meeting actions and follow up.

What issues can we expect Boards to continue facing this year?

It is likely that Boards will continue to meet remotely. Even if Covid-19 restrictions enable Boards to meet in person from time to time, we can expect Boards to manage more of their meetings online. The focus on managing public health, reducing costs by not flying Board members to a central location, and acknowledging the environmental impact of unnecessary plane travel will all be factors in ensuring online Board meetings are more commonplace.

A recent article by McKinsey outlines the below issues we can expect to continue seeing in the near future:

  • More regular Board meetings - needed to effectively navigate rapidly changing industries and external impacts such as supply chain disruption
  • Higher engagement from Board members - never have the stakes been so high for Board members to be asking the right questions and making the right decisions
  • Diversity - of thought and perspectives has never been so important, especially from operational teams or those “on the ground”
  • Visibility - High functioning Boards need to support their Executive Teams to bring both failures and successes to their attention
  • Efficiency - less time in Board meetings spent on issues that need approval but not debate
  • Deeper involvement - more time for the bigger strategic conversations and discussions
  • Trust - building more trust between Board members and Executive Teams

“how you manage the board agenda and what you engage on, and with whom, matters.”

Source: mckinsey.com

How can Board software support Board decision making?

Agendas and minutes are the key to making Board meetings run smoothly and provide clarity around next steps. In an environment where decision quality is largely measured by a Board’s effectiveness, the structure of pre-meeting, meeting and post-meeting management can be crucial in supporting Board decision making.

Board administrators have a range of tools and software platforms available to them. Critical to success is finding a solution simple enough to get buy-in from your Board and smart enough to support the way your Board wants to work.

Board agenda

Let’s take the humble Board agenda, and look at how you can use this to create a more effective Board meeting flow. By agreeing as a group, how you want to spend your valuable face-to-face time, use your agenda to make clear distinctions between: tasks that need approval but not debate, and tasks that need debate before approval.

This simple step can create two lists of Board action items.

  1. List of pre-reading material that requires understanding in advance of the Board meeting, and Board members to agree or disagree with the proposal.
  2. List of pre-reading material that will provide Board members with background information so they can comfortably discuss the issue during the Board meeting.

Valuable in-person meeting time can be clawed back by using a Board software tool to agree non-debate agenda items before the Board meeting even starts. Loomio has a great Help article about setting up your next Board meeting thread and ratifying simple decisions or proposals using our Poll function that don’t need in person debate.

This is great news for Board members, as low debate issues can be reviewed and approved outside Board meetings, freeing up your meeting time to spend more time on larger and more complex issues.

Rather than clogging your inbox with 20 PDF attachments, Board software tools can enable Board members to dive into the agenda and pre-reading in their own time, and create conversations relating to specific documents with the Board members that matter. Long gone are the days with lengthy email trails on specific Board issues that not everyone has to participate in.

”Our customers love using Loomio so they can: push admin tasks onto Loomio to free up meeting time for discussions that matter, arrive at meetings prepared and in context, push topics that require further discussion and information back into Loomio.”

Michael Elwood-Smith, Customer Development Exec, Loomio

Board minutes

For Board administrators, real-time minute taking using a Board software tool can bring a level of immediacy and context to the discussions taking place in a meeting. Live editing of minutes, and tagging actions for individual Board members is incredibly helpful to both Board administrators and Board members. Linking an action point to the topic within the minutes can provide instant context and understanding of next steps.

Of course, the approval of minutes is also simplified when you’re not relying on sending an email attachment and needing all Board members to send you a separate reply. Instead, Board members can be prompted within their chosen Board software tool and view the approval/disapproval of other Board members. At Loomio, we use Threads to share and agree minutes for transparent approval.

By using Board software tools for more efficient and effective group decision making, we can make the Board experience a more fulfilling one for all Board members and administrators. Providing more time to focus on the big issues, can significantly improve the effectiveness of the Board. Enabling simpler conversations and decisions in between meetings is also useful to maintain Board engagement in between meetings.

Keen to learn more? You can trial Loomio free for 30 days - see how it could support your Board today.