Best Practices for Post COVID-19 Board Meetings

  • Alan Hewitt
  • Published: September 2, 2020
Best Practices for Post COVID-19 Board Meetings

We previously published a blog article entitled “How Will Boards Cope With the Changing Business Landscape?” and it opened with the following:

“As Bob Dylan sang in 1964: “The Times They Are a-Changin'”

Those words, more than ever, ring true. Every aspect of our businesses and lives are undergoing changes that wouldn’t have been believable six months ago. Unlike many other historical shocks that have allowed us to pause and think, this pandemic has lasted long enough to make some of the changes that have been forced on us to remain.”

This BBC article reinforces that idea. The changes introduced in previous months are now the new way of working. To quote:

From 1 August, employers in England can allow staff back into offices at their own discretion when they feel it’s safe to do so.

But now it’s time to return to those communal workplaces, research from Eskenzi suggests that 91% of the UK’s office workers would like to work from home at least part of the time.”

There are more blogs and news articles which now acknowledge that the world has changed – across multiple sectors – and that it is unlikely to revert back to its old ways any time soon.

This blog opens with the following:

“As the world is slowly moving out of lockdown, consumers everywhere are changing the way they live and behave. The ongoing social distancing measures and the presence of the virus means consumers have to adapt to the ‘next normal’ and their expectations for different sectors are changing.”

Boards need to be proactive and/or quick to react to the changing circumstances. They need to ensure that they are not in a disadvantageous position due to ever-changing markets, supply chains, staffing needs, etc.

Conversely, they should also consider their ability to take advantage of the opportunities that will come about as a result of COVID-19.

So the next logical question is:

How has your board adapted to this new environment in which we all operate?

To answer this, I present a checklist and pose some critical questions that might help your board think about how they will evolve and change.

I’ve broken it down into three phases:

  1. Pre-Board Meeting
  2. During the Board Meeting
  3. Post-Board Meeting

Pre-Board Meeting

  • Review the composition of your board and the skillsets and experience that the members have
    Do you have a clear view of what skills your board will require moving forward?
  • Establish a clear purpose for the meeting
    It is important to communicate the intent of the meeting to all board members.
  • Create a wellstructured agenda
    A well structured agenda syncs up with the desired outcome of the meeting.
  • Circulate the agenda a week prior to the meeting
    This allots some time for members to provide input and comment on the agenda.
  • Decide on how to circulate the agenda
    Will this be done via hard copy, email, or through a board portal?
  • Clarify the desired outcome for each agenda item
    Is it for information? For discussion? For decision?
  • Set expectations for each board member
    Are they expected to lead certain agenda items? Are they expected to provide an update/input? Are they expected to contribute to a decision and how that decision will be made?
  • Prepare and circulate the board pack a week before the meeting
    This helps ensure that board papers provide sufficient information to meet the objective of each agenda item.
  • Decide on how to circulate the board papers
    Will it be done via hardcopy, email, or through board management software? Is the method of distribution secure?
  • Review of the quality of the information in the board papers
    Is the information in the board papers clear, understandable, accurate and current? See this post for more information on how to write effective board papers.
  • Verify that all board members have received all the required information
    This places them in the best position to contribute to the meeting.
  • Be flexible when setting up meetings
    It is best to have a system that allows for board meetings to be set-up quickly in response to changing factors. Also, given today’s circumstances, consider your board’s ability to run virtual meetings. If you have that capability, make sure that the method is tried, tested, and secure. It is also important that every board member is comfortable using the technology.

During the Board Meeting

Holding meetings with some members present in the room, and some joining remotely, will be the norm. This does present some interesting challenges which we addressed in a previous post. (See Best Practices: Facilitating Virtual Meetings)

Let’s take a look at what we should consider, especially if you are the Chairperson.

  • Gauge your comfort level
    Are you ready to run a meeting of this type?
  • Identify who will be taking meeting minute
  • Decide on how the meeting minutes will be circulated for comment and feedback
    This ensures that all action items and associated due dates are noted by the respective owners.
  • Manage all attendees to obtain everyone’s input
    It is more difficult to do this when not everyone is physically located in the same room. Those in the room may dominate the meeting. It is particularly important to be aware that a balance of input is needed across the whole group.
  • Keep to time
  • Run an effective meeting
    This means that attendees will leave the meeting assured that it: a.) achieved its purpose, b.) covered all agenda items with sufficient time for each, c.) allowed input from everyone, and d.) delivered a structured set of action items/next steps with owners and due dates assigned.

Post-Board Meeting

Now that the meeting has been well attended and with good contribution from all, what’s next?

  • Circulate the meeting minutes soon after the meeting concludes
    This allows meeting attendees to comment and provide input on the document.
  • Circle back to the attendees
    Obtain feedback or input regarding the meeting. Ask how the meeting went from their perspective, and how things can be improved moving forward.
  • Track and monitor action items
    The agreed action items should be tracked for progress prior to the next meeting.
  • Incorporate action items into the next meeting agenda
    All action items from the last meeting should be presented as part of the opening of the next agenda.

It also is worthwhile to evaluate board meeting practices by considering the following:

  • Frequency and format
    Are board meetings held often enough? Perhaps the convenience factor of virtual meetings should encourage more frequent board meetups?
  • Duration
    Are board meetings too long? Do they need to be shortened? Agendas are often packed with items because attendees may have to travel to meetings, and there is the priority of making the most of their time. Perhaps with more virtual meetings there could be more frequent, shorter, and more focussed meetings and agendas?

And finally, from a macro perspective, it would be beneficial to reflect on this key question:

Is your board fit for purpose?

Is it able to quickly respond to the changing world so it can add real value to the business and its stakeholders?