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Board Meeting Action Items – How to Effectively Manage the Never-Ending List

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Association board meetings can happen virtually or in-person, they can be monthly, quarterly or annually, and they can have a specific focus or touch on several different topics. In such a flexible board meeting structure, one thing that remains certain is that board meetings generally result in a lot of work. With our association clients, we refer to this “work” as “action items”. Action items are a set of tasks assigned to one or several members of the board to be completed by a given date. The purpose of these tasks can vary, but the ultimate goal is to move the association forward by taking actions to achieve its vision and mission.

Depending on the number of board meetings that an association has in a year or what sort of external events are going on, an action item list can become quite lengthy. It is important to have a tracking and prioritizing process in place to ensure that action items are completed in a timely manner. A stale dated action item is counterproductive and will not help to meet the association’s goals.

Tracking Process

In the associations that I work with, action items are noted directly in the meeting minutes. They are created as a new line in the section of the minutes where the discussion took place, then all items are compiled at the end of the minutes in a summarized table. The table outlines what the action item is, who is responsible for completing it, the date that it was created, and the proposed completion date for that task. An example of the table is shown below:

Action Item Responsible Date Proposed Completion
Create a budget for theProfessional Development Day Dave June 30, 2016 August 1, 2016

The summarized table gives a quick overview of the work to be done and is much easier to read than having to scan through pages of minutes. At the beginning of every board meeting, this table is discussed. Action items that have been completed are removed and the outstanding list is reviewed. At this time, if the list is extensive, any remaining open action items are re-prioritized. The proposed completion date may be changed if one item is deemed more pressing than another. For example, the particular item may have some external deadlines associated with it or the completion of one task may affect the start date of another.

Putting Action Items into Action

Now that a tracking process in place, it’s time to look at actually getting the work done. Many, if not most boards, are made up of volunteer leaders whose time is valuable. It is important that their time is used efficiently. With the associations that I work with, it is the responsibility of the association management company team to monitor action item progress and ensure that board

members are staying on top of their responsibilities. The team members also act as a resource should the board member request assistance in completing their task(s). Regular reminders are sent to board members to request an update on their work. A simple reminder can help move the work along as board members may have a number of other responsibilities outside of the association and their action item(s) may have fallen off their radar. The reminder may also prompt the board member to ask for assistance as they may have come across an issue with getting the work completed. This is where the association management staff can make use of their resources to help the member accomplish their given task.

Shortening the List

As previously mentioned, a board meeting, whether it be in-person or by teleconference, almost always results in a long list of action items. Tracking these items in a clear and concise manner and prioritizing outstanding items regularly will help to make the best use of board member time. A friendly reminder can also help accomplish tasks more quickly and it should be the association management team’s responsibility to ensure that everything runs on time.

In short, the process you need to remember is to track, prioritize, and remind. Keeping these few tips in mind while working through an action item list can help keep it at a manageable length and allow the association to move towards its goals more quickly.

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