How to create a strategic board meeting agenda

Why is an agenda useful? First, board members use it to better prepare for a meeting and to know what to expect. There you can find an orderly list of interesting topics to discuss, and the discussion’s point becomes clear immediately. However, sometimes the agenda is poorly prepared, the issues are scattered without priority, and you may not even have enough time to cover them. As a result, the productivity of such meetings is much lower. To prevent this from happening, executives should get better at creating a strategic agenda.

Who needs an agenda?

An agenda is created for board members. At any meeting, the first issue is the approval of the plan. Before the plan is approved, it is just a draft because members can suggest deleting items, adding items, and postponing things to the next meeting. Then, the chairman of the board, together with the corporate secretary or the CEO, creates the plan. The board controls what issues can be brought to the board, but the chairman has the final say.

What should be on the agenda?

Several factors influence the content of the agenda:

  • The board’s annual calendar – helps the board navigate the timeline and determine what issues should be discussed during that period to meet financial and regulatory requirements. Each of the problems will be brought forward by different committees
  • Strategic Plan -provides key performance indicators for the board to focus on. It also identifies higher priority topics for discussion, which will save time on issues that will take up too much of their time
  • Content of the previous agenda – serves as a template for forming a new agenda, and the minutes of the last meeting suggest which items need to be moved. However, you should not always follow the format of prior arrangements; every session is unique

Experts recommend that the following elements be added to the schedule:

    • Notes from the chairman – the chairman sheds light on problems from the previous quarter and new potential difficulties. That way, the chair can set the right tone, direction, and goals for the meeting
    • Financial overview – it is not necessary to read out complete financial reports; the CFO should point out the most important aspects and trends
    • Management and committee reports – similar to above, pieces should be concise and informative and focus on major findings
    • Key issues – the plan may address in-depth topics such as risk management, products, and risks
    • Strategic update -the board should have time during the meeting for dialogues about the company’s strategy, which should consist of developing new ideas and perspectives
    • Management and board development – this includes discussing potential director candidates, or management challenges, or educating the board through presentations

How to properly organize the agenda?

To start a meeting, board members must be clear about their daily tasks. The board chair should ask participants to add or change items on the agenda. It is recommended to inform about your proposals in advance. Even though your idea is reasonable, you can still disrupt the already built-up order of the agenda and the meeting. The chair should also think through the approximate flow of the meeting. Who will speak, and how long will it take them? Typically, boards have followed Robert’s Rules of Order in their meetings, which spell out this flow of the agenda:

      • Approval of minutes and agenda
      • Reporting
      • Old business
      • New business

However, reports and old business could take up too much of the board’s time, so it is now recommended that the board discuss strategic issues first at the beginning and leave reports for the end.