Board Management Blog

Boards of directors are challenging to manage, but committees are arguably even harder. You may have too many committees, committees might overlap in function, or they may simply fail to communicate effectively with the rest of the board.


Board Management software makes the process of communication and organization within committees much easier. Even still, there are some best practices that are important to consider when managing your committees. We’ve outlined a handful of them for you below.


  1. Make sure every committee is necessary.

One of the most common problems is that there are too many committees. Each committee should have a material impact on the board’s success. If this is not the case, it may be more efficient to assign the responsibilities of that committee to one or two members of the board or place them within another committee’s purview. Additionally, make sure each committee is the appropriate size. If it is too big, you may be wasting members’ time that could be spent sitting on a different committee or serving another purpose for the board.


  1. Ensure that each committee has a clear purpose.

Each committee should be distinct and focused. Defining a very clear purpose will help the committee to actually fulfill its duties and will ensure that multiple committees do not duplicate their efforts. Set clear policies and procedures and make sure members are consistently on the same page. Some committees list their mission and/or policies on top of meeting agendas and review them at the start of each meeting.


  1. Appoint strong leadership and choose members wisely.

The head of the committee should be an active board member who is knowledgeable about the subject of the committee. Because boards may be limited in size, it’s not always possible to stack each committee with the board’s strongest leaders, but make sure that the members of the committee will respect and follow their head. Additionally, pay attention that committee members aren’t serving on too many committees at once – more than two will likely inhibit their participation on each.


  1. Perform regular self-evaluations. 

Conduct annual self-evaluations. Assess strengths and weaknesses, areas for improvement, and future action needed. Questions could include: Do members agree on the committee goals and are those goals being met? If not, why? Are all members active and is the task load split evenly? Is there a lot of turnovers, and why? Do members agree on most issues or is there discord? Make sure to keep the evaluation positive in nature and review the results with the group. Together, come up with solutions to any problems that arise, and if there are no glaring issues, brainstorm ways to further strengthen the group.


  1. Run effective meetings.

Meetings should be like committees – strictly necessary and focused. Make sure that meetings focus on decisions rather than updates: you can handle general updates via emails and discussion boards. Always have a clear agenda, and leave a short period time at the end of the meeting for discussion items that arise last minute. Be strategic about frequency. If most of your meeting time is spent catching up, you are not meeting enough. If meetings are very short or there are few decisions made, you are likely meeting too frequently. When there are only one or two important items, it may be better to have a video meeting or cover via a discussion board.


  1. Keep in touch between meetings.

To keep meetings efficient, members must stay up-to-date during a hiatus. Post updates on a discussion board, connect with members via direct message or email and track tasks. It’s also good to send out the agenda, along with any major updates, before each meeting. Members can then request to add items and share their latest updates. This will help keep meetings focused on strategy and decision-making.


7. Communicate efficiently with the rest of the board.

Share items that actively affect the board’s goals or that will have an impact on other committees. Smaller updates about the committee’s internal activities may not be necessary to communicate. When in doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Transparency is more important than ever, particularly within corporate entities. Clear policies and procedures help inform the committee about its responsibilities to the board and to the public.


8. Keep accurate records.

This is key to communicating well with the rest of the board. You need to have records of the committee’s activity, especially if there were private discussions or decisions. This helps keep all activity above board, and on a practical level, it ensures that members stay informed. It will also help you make accurate evaluations and will allow you to track the committee’s progress over time. Keep a record of important documents in a shared location (such as Board Management’s cloud-based storage), maintain good meeting minutes and agendas, stay active on discussion boards, keep track of tasks, and share plenty of email updates.


9. Don’t be afraid to change direction.

If a committee is not serving its mission, making progress, or working as a team, it’s important to change strategy and take different action. Sometimes this requires you to replace the head of the committee or move members around. Try to re-assign members to committees in which they are better suited rather than simply removing them. Additionally, be prepared for a natural amount of turnover. This is where proper record keeping comes in handy—new members can quickly assimilate when they have all necessary information.


Stay positive and focused.

Committees are notoriously unwieldy, but yours need not be. By implementing some of these best practices, you can make a significant impact on your board’s success, the organization you serve, and your community.


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