Using Consent Agendas for Board Meetings

Do you belong to a board of directors? If so, stop what you’re doing.



If I could give you 30 minutes back in your next board of directors meeting, how would you feel? Pretty impressed, right?

Simple. Adopt a consent agenda.

We’re surprised this simple practice hasn’t made its way onto more boards. Having personally run hundreds of formal meetings, using a consent agenda would have saved me tens of hours of wasted time.

What is a consent agenda? Its pretty straightforward really – group all items that are typically consented on – things like approval of minutes, approval of policies, etc. into a single topic and allocate 5 minutes for their discussion and approval.


In practice, this approach saves a considerable amount of board time. Why? Parkinson’s Law. By combining all consent topics into one, short topic and limiting discussion (which can be expanded if you find you need it), you are subverting Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work expands to fill the time allotted”.

You might think you’d need to spend 10 minutes reviewing the latest contract for HR counsel or even the CEO report. Resist the urge to do so. As a disciplined board, you should be NIFO. Brush aside all the housekeeping items and focus on the purpose of your board, whatever that may be.

To be fair, the consent agenda is not for every board.

Are you a working board? Are most of your board members ill-prepared for meetings? The consent agenda approach won’t work for you.

The consent agenda demands a couple of things:

  1. Source material is well prepared and sent out sufficiently in advance. What is “sufficiently in advance”? Enough time for board members to digest the material and raise any questions offline, in advance of your meeting. As such, concerns can be addressed individually without requiring group discussion.
  2. All Board members actually read the material you send them.

The resultant Board is then free to focus on what its meant to do – providing vision and leadership for whatever it is the overarching organization is trying to achieve.

Published by

Darin Herle

I call Victoria BC home, am a proud father of 2 and husband to 1. Trackmeet co-founder, Cub Scout leader and baseball fan.

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