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How challenging traditional approaches can benefit Board members and improve the outcome of their meetings.

Until I joined Knowa, how we work best as a team was never a top priority – you just got on with it. Using chats, calls, meetings and emails as appropriate, with the odd moan about how busy we all are to make me feel better about it all.

2 ½ years (and one pandemic) later, how we work best – synchronous vs asynchronous communication – is firmly in the spotlight. How you and your Board bring together these two approaches will end up defining how productive you are.

What is synchronous and asynchronous communication?

First the basics…

  • 💬 Synchronous communication happens in real time – meetings, calls, conversations, instant messenger tools
  • 📧 Asynchronous communication means interaction without real-time conversation — the most common example being email.

Benefits of asynchronous

There are plenty of benefits to asynchronous communication that are easy to forget in our new world of Zoom/Teams calls.  For example:

  • The freedom to plan your workday based on your most productive hours, and the flexibility to spend extended periods on more important tasks
  • It tends to be of higher quality than knee-jerk responses. Allowing you to think through a particular idea, gather your thoughts, and offer responses when you’re ready
  • These responses – being automatically captured in writing – can be referenced in the future, improving transparency, Board knowledge and audit trails

How to get more from your meetings

Asynchronous communication will never replace Board meetings – meetings are unbeatable where the subject is urgent or requires conclusion/resolution/creative solutions.  So how can we use asynchronous communication approaches to improve the efficiency of your meetings?

From the wide variety of meeting packs I see, here are some ideas I’ve picked up:

  • Pages upon pages of documents ‘for noting’?  Why do the Board have to note these in the week leading up to the meeting and the 4 hours of the meeting itself?  Could they have been noted at a time more convenient to each trustee?
  • By issuing these ‘for noting’ documents in real-time, it also addresses the issue of documents being 2 months out of date by the time they’re read
  • Challenge the need for verbal updates – these are great when you need immediate feedback, but if these are again ‘for noting’ could the update be given asynchronously, thus protecting the agenda for items that need proper discussion and debate?
  • Is a Board decision a formality that just needs recording in the minutes?  If so, can these be captured outside the meeting?
  • Manage repetitive tasks asynchronously, ensuring they’re only ‘upgraded’ to a slot at the Board meeting when in need of a live discussion

So should we use more of email then?

Of course not!  Because being a Board member is not a full-time role, managing Board responsibilities is not suited to email:

  • Emails have no care for your priorities and are instead a list of everyone else’s, the latest email in, sitting proudly at the top
  • With emails you are viewing messages from every corner of your life in one go, thus context switching every 30 seconds
  • There is no hierarchy for emails directed to you vs those you are copied in on

How Knowa helps

At Knowa our mantra is modern governance, made easy.  We recognise the potential for asynchronous communication tools to improve Board productivity, which is why we embedded it into the Knowa platform from the start.  Our ambition is to reduce the burden on Board members, thus enhancing their effectiveness and the outcomes for their members and stakeholders.

If any of this resonates with you, I’d love to share ideas and hear about how you’re looking to improve productivity with your Board.