I have already written a chair based blog, so it seems only right to balance this out from the table’s perspective. The majority of trustee meetings are held round a table, I am yet to see one in a beanbag filled reflection corner, but there is still time (do Google have a DB Scheme?). The best way to set your table is with a strong agenda. The agenda covers the topical points of the day, periodic business as usual issues and governance overlays. And then there’s the menu, but I’ll come to that.
The last three months, post Brexit, have really put a focus on investment and funding. The finite amount of time trustee Boards have to meet is precious (and is often already less than required) and key issues rightly take precedence. However, governance is not something that should be ignored and trustees must be mindful of not letting this slip off the table.
When setting the agenda (or laying the table), we must ensure that there is adequate time to cover the matters at hand. If matters cannot be given the proper attention, they should be deferred to a later meeting. If an item is not given appropriate time, it should be noted with a remedial action for interim follow up or for greater prominence to be given at a future meeting.
When you meet once a year, which is not uncommon, then everything must be covered. It may be a long old day, but the table should not be cleared until everything is done. This may actually be a prompt that more regular meetings are required!
If you have regular meetings they should be thought out and planned. Key issues should be alternated, and at least one meeting per annum should have a governance focus. The operation of a governance sub-committee may also be desirable for larger schemes. This gives both focus and accountability for the review of internal controls. Looking back to my beanbag filled reflection corner, there is always the question as to whether you had the right balance on the menu to start with? Many trustee meetings lack strategic direction, and simply cover points for good order rather than really agreeing a strategy and making sure it evolves. When setting your menu, you need to make sure that all parties are satisfied and that it ultimate leads to dessert. If you don’t know you are aiming for that sticky toffee pudding (buy out) then you may overfill yourself on starters and you won’t manage it!
Whilst governance does not grab tabloid issues, nor manage your liabilities, it does underpin the processes which make the trustee board work. Failure to consider and monitor the governance issues, will likely result in future headaches. Although, at times this argument is like banging one’s head on the proverbial table.