Perfecting virtual board meetings with continuous improvement

There’s been a lot said in recent months about how boards can manage the shift from face-to-face meetings to a future that is likely to be dominated by virtual meetings.

We’ve written about this subject ourselves – pointing out several ways you can stay secure and run well-organised meetings that are productive.

This is not a static situation though. It’s important that as a board member, secretary, or senior leader you look to continue to evolve the way you work to help you adapt to fast-changing times. 

To make this happen, it may well be worth adopting a mindset of ‘continuous improvement’ to ensure that you are in the best possible position to make good decisions about the future and stay compliant.

Here’s our take on how this can work for you.

Five principles that will help you carry on improving

If you’re familiar with Lean, Kaizen, or Six Sigma you’ll already know something about the principles behind the idea of continuous improvement. They are methodologies widely used by businesses across the world to make incremental improvements to processes and products. Much has been written on the subject and in great detail, but for our purposes here we only need to consider the five core principles of continuous improvement that will help you to evolve your new way of working.

1. Improvements are based on small changes, not paradigm shifts

This first principle of continuous improvement should be encouraging, it means you don’t have to worry about big shifts anymore! You’ve already done that by moving from paper-based processes and meetings to online collaboration and video. You’re now just thinking about the detail and where you can improve what you’ve already started.

Actions you can take based on this principle:

  • Start by implementing a review of the systems for virtual meetings you have implemented. Ask yourself and the wider team: “Are we using the functionality correctly, and are there ways of using the tools we have more efficiently?”

2. Everyone’s ideas are valuable

The continuous improvement model is built on the idea that everyone within a team or organisation can have input into how processes work. In the context of how boards work – this means that no one should be standing aside and simply letting the new process around virtual meetings happen. Everyone should have input. Not just the secretaries responsible for setting up meetings, but also all directors, chairs, and senior managers

Actions you can take based on this principle:

  • Implement a system (or just a simple online suggestion box) that will enable all participants to record bugbears with current processes (and of course suggestions for improving them).
Everyone’s ideas are valuable. The continuous improvement model is built on the idea that everyone within a team or organisation can have input into how processes work

3. You’re aiming to remove and streamline processes rather than add to them

Continuous improvement models deliver small changes that can be achieved without a lot of expense. This is because many ideas involve eliminating parts of processes, rather than adding to them. Post Covid-19 we have already seen boards reduce the size of board packs to stay focused during virtual meetings. This has saved time and paper too. There could be many more opportunities for boards to reduce waste and improve efficiency and get the most out of everyone’s valuable time.

Actions you can take based on this principle:

  • Report back to board members on improvements that have been made so far and encourage further suggestions from all parties on how further waste could be eliminated.

4. Improvement is based on continuous feedback

Constant feedback is another crucial component of the continuous improvement model. Whenever you start to execute an improvement suggested by someone in your team, it’s a good idea to gather everyone’s feedback on how it is working for them, get suggestions for further improvements, and make further adjustments as necessary. Everyone stays engaged, and nothing is presented as a fait accompli.

Actions you can take based on this principle:

  • Empower all parties involved in setting and participating in meetings to provide feedback on any improvements to the processes you are implementing; if you are using a secure sharing platform like Admincontrol, this will be easy to execute and will keep all your conversations secure.

5. Improvement should always be measurable

To achieve real improvement, you need to measure the impact of your actions and communicate it back to everyone involved. If you have started to produce much shorter board packs, and are having faster and more focused online meetings, say so. If boards can see these figures and what they are achieving, they will surely be encouraged to carry on contributing to any further improvements that can be made in the future.

Action you can take based on this principle:

  • Set KPIs and measure the impact of any changes you have made – especially where those changes have led to saved time, reduced costs, more focused, and faster decision making, and strategy approvals.

Concluding thoughts

By using video conferencing and secure sharing platforms boards have achieved many benefits in the wake of Covid-19. Moving forward there is scope to make further gains by reviewing what else can be improved to help organisations secure a stable and prosperous long-term future.

For more on this topic, we suggest The digital habits if resilient boards: a guide for 2021 and beyond.