Bobwhite Blather is a blog written by a long-time troop committee chair. He has some wonderful insights on better managing the adults in units.
One of the key points is to encourage committee members to bring a short written report with details. Then their oral reports can focus on the highlights with details available for individuals to review outside the meeting.
One of the most important tasks that a committee chair can fulfill is encouraging brevity and succinctness. One of the tried and true methods is having a written agenda with each point of conversation having a short time budget. This written agenda should be offered for review and approval by the group BEFORE the conversations begin. That way the group is invested in the proposed schedule.
For example, let’s say the chair offers an agenda that says, in part, “Discussion of next campout (10 minutes).” He starts the meeting by reviewing the minutes from the previous meeting and reviewing the agenda. “You all have my proposed agenda? Any amendments that we need to make? No? Ok, let’s get started.” Then the emphasis in the budgeted time should be clarifying who is in charge and who is assisting, summarizing the outing agenda created by the PLC, identifying resources needed, and identifying known problems. All other details should be delegated to a person or small committee to resolve within the agreed parameters.
Once the 10 minutes is expired, that does not mean that the committee chair needs to abruptly end the conversation. It does create a natural point for the chair to interrupt the conversation for a minute, saying, “We had budgeted 10 minutes for this conversation. Those 10 minutes are now up. Is there anything that we must address as a committee left. If so, how much time do we want to spend on that conversation?”
Surprisingly, keeping participants aware of the clock and asking for their input for any extensions of time is extremely effective at wrapping up wandering conversations. Often there is no further discussion to be had and the matter is quickly closed.
If there is a need for further conversation, the participants then have some sense of control over how much more discussion will take place. They become more sensitive to the need for brevity. When the next time period expires, it is usually best to resolve the matter or refer it to a small group to work through details. The unit committee is not the best place to do extensive detail work.
Please note, nowhere did I suggest an emphasis on Robert’s Rules of Order, formal proposal of motions, seconds, and votes. An effective meeting can be and often should be run without such formalities. Even so, a good chairman knows how to work within these formalities.
To fully develop this idea is a potential topic for a future post. For now, suffice it to say that knowing how formal meetings can be run allows a chair to understand the chair’s proper role in managing a meeting. The chair can make points consistent with formal procedure without reciting the magic incantations for formal procedure. The chair can say, “I see that we are out of time on this point,” rather than the more formal, “The chair finds that time is expired for debate on the question before the committee; I, therefore, call for a vote on the question.”
Committee meetings are more effective when the chair comes to the meeting with an agenda with a proposed time schedule and that time schedule is honored.