Of bored meetings…

Oops, that was meant to read – Board Meetings.

Meetings of the Board of Directors. By the way, why is it called the “Board’? Here is an interesting tidbit.

In the 16th century the ‘board’ (that hunk of wood) was the name of the table at which a council met and it also came to signify the meeting of such a council around this table. By the early 17th century the ‘board’ identified the group of people who meet at a council-table – the recognized word for a body of persons officially constituted for the transaction or superintendence of some particular business.

Ahem. Some things stick on forever.

Anyways, so the procedure at Board Meetings have largely been carried on from those times. It’s not surprising then, that some of the steps involved seem pretty outdated. Calling the meeting to order, for instance, may have originated when people in the Middle Ages, having met after a long time, had a lot to speak and very little time – hence the need to get everybody focused on business.

Yet till today, I have witnessed many such meetings where everyone is seated quietly, and comfortably – and the convener still announced – I hereby call the meeting to order. Hmmm…

One can even witness these scenes in Parliament, especially the ones from the Commonwealth. The proceedings in India’s Parliament are the same as they were before Independence – “all those in favor say aye” types. Surely one can have a more localized way of getting this done?

Now, I am not saying that one should not follow discipline, and that all aspects of Board Meetings should be changed. There is a certain standardization, and that helps. But in smaller firms, and startups, I feel that unnecessary focus on form, and not on function, can be detrimental. After all, the point of the meeting is to get something done – to reflect on prior performances and to chalk the way ahead. The rest is just a structure – and this can be made more flexible.

I attended a Board Meeting today, that was far from ideal. Some members came late, some seemed disinterested, and the agenda could have been a lot better. But I noticed one thing positive. It was a little more relaxed, when they did get down to business. It didn’t follow the format to the T, but there were a lot of takeaways from the meeting, and at the end of it, business was actually done (inadvertently, but done).

So it does help relax the rules sometimes. One can always tighten them when the situation demands, isn’t it?

See you tomorrow!