the boards time for discussing matters the board can actually have an
effect upon (i.e. the future), a consent agenda is a tool that eliminates as
much as ½ hour or more of reviewing what has happened in the past -
things the board can do nothing about.
consent agenda is a SINGLE ITEM that encompasses all the things the board would
normally approve with little comment. The minutes. The financials (yes, the
financials!). Program reports or CEO reports. Perfunctory items such as formal
approval of a contract that has already been talked to death at past meetings.
those items combine to become one item for approval - The Consent Agenda.
boards agenda might therefore look like this:
Board Meeting Agenda
a) Minutes of prior
b) Contract to retain
c) Financial report
d) Project status
e) CEO report
Change recommended for XYZ Program
As a single item on the agenda, the
consent agenda is voted on with a single vote - to approve the consent agenda.
The key to the Consent Agendas
effectiveness, though, is that there is NO DISCUSSION of that item!
Thats right. All those things
that would have taken 2 minutes here, 5 minutes there, 1 minute here - they are
off the table in one vote. The vote sounds like this:
I move to approve the
Ill second that
There is a motion and a
second to approve the consent agenda. All in favor, signify by saying
Thats it. NO discussion. And
all those items that previously took ½ hour or more have now all been
Because there will be no discussion
of these items individually, using a consent agenda requires that board
materials be provided in plenty of time for board members to read them all. AND
it requires that they read those materials!
Handling Items That Require
Discussion or Clarification
Sometimes a board member will read
the board materials related to the Consent Agenda, and he will have a question
he would like answered before he votes. Or he feels the issue still requires
discussion before he would feel comfortable voting. Those are two distinct
scenarios, and they receive two distinct treatments.
Items for Clarification or
For items that require clarification, or for which a board
member has a question, that clarification must be requested before the meeting.
An item cannot be pulled from the consent agenda just to have a question
answered. That sort of information gathering should happen ONLY before the
In that way, the person being asked
the question has time to gather the information. (There is nothing worse than
having an issue tabled for the next meeting, only because a question could not
be answered then and there.) In addition, that clarification can then be sent
to all board members, so everyone has the same information before the meeting.
This is particularly useful for
clarifying the minutes, which often takes absurd amounts of time that could
otherwise be spent in more meaningful discussion.
Items for Discussion
there is an item about which a board member disagrees, or believes that item
requires discussion, then a request is made at the board table to pull that one
item from the Consent Agenda, and to add it to the regular agenda as an item to
be discussed. The remainder of the Consent Agenda items are voted on and
approved, and only that single item is held out for discussion.
Ms. Chairwoman, I
would like to request that the Item c be pulled from the Consent
Agenda for discussion.
All in favor of
approving the Consent Agenda, minus Item c, signify by saying
Then Item C will be
discussed as a regular discussion item.
result of using a consent agenda, you will learn and your board will grow.
First, you will learn that much of what you have been spending time on at board
meetings is either perfunctory or has already happened and is therefore nothing
the board can do anything about. That is often an eye-opener for a board.
But then, your board will have room
to grow. You will have time to discuss the only thing that matters - the
results you want to see in the community. The difference you want to be making.
The values and parameters that will guide that work. The various ways you want
to engage the community in that work, and the reasons for that engagement.
for What Matters. It is a board holding itself accountable first for the
end results it wants to see in the community, and then the means for
And that may just make your meetings