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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

27 Aug '08

Avoiding Board Traffic Jams

Many board meetings and agendas look like this traffic jam: tons of business, everything seems to move slow and it seems that we cannot get on top of if. The result is leadership frustration, long meetings and ministry decisions made at a crawl rather than at highway speed.

It does not need to look this way. In fact, most organizations should be able to deal with their business in one meeting a month, leaving the second meeting for dreaming, prayer, and thinking about the future.

How does one avoid the traffic jam?

One: Rather than dealing with every situation that comes up, make policy that can guide staff in future decisions. By making policy, leaders avoid the necessity to deal with the issue again and give the staff appropriate guidance on how to deal with future like issues.

Two: Never formulate strategy as a board. Whenever possible, delegate the formulation of policy or strategy to staff or a few qualified individuals who can then come back to the board with a recommendation. The board then does not need to strategize by committee but can accept, reject or tweak the recommendation saving it significant time.

Three: Don't use board time to listen to reports. Board meetings are working meetings not times to hear reports. Instead of doing reports at the board meeting, have leaders summarize relevant current information and send it out ahead of time in an email. Many boards could cut meeting time in half if they followed this one practice.

Four: Prioritize board work. Not all rocks are big rocks, some are pebbles. Put the big rocks at the front of the agenda and deal with those first. Where possible simply delegate the smaller rocks or the pebbles to other qualified individuals.

Five: Ensure that the chair of the board keeps the meeting moving. That is their job. Endless discussions are unproductive. At an appropriate time, cut off discussion and take a vote and move along. If there is deadlock, put off the decision to another meeting and move on.

Six: Be willing to make decisions. Any decision in most cases is better than indecision. Some boards are paralyzed by the necessity of making a decision resulting in long, drawn out and frustrating traffic jams. Don't let that happen. After appropriate prayer and discussion, make a decision and move on. If you have to revisit it later so be it but doing nothing is worse than doing something.

Seven: Start and end your meetings on time. This forces the board to do its work in a timely basis and to prioritize its work. Board meetings will stretch to whatever boundaries there are so set boundaries and keep them.

Eight: Have clear lines of responsibility and authority. Be sure that in your organization it is clear who can make what decisions and then empower them to do so in line with your ministry philosophy and policies. The goal of boards is to clarify direction and then empower people to make decisions that are in alignment with that direction. By doing this boards seek to remove traffic jams from its culture.


Nine: Be clear on your mission, guiding principles, central ministry focus and the culture you are creating. By clarifying the big issues, it make it possible for both boards and staff to made decisions that are in alignment with that clarity. Ambiguity over these issues makes decision making very difficult.

Ten: Ensure a good working relationship between staff and boards so that they both understand their responsibilities, trust each other and are working in sync with one another. The higher the trust level the faster decisions can be made and the more decisions can be delegated to appropriate staff levels.