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Methods: Introducing consent agendas

by David Blakey

It can be a painful process moving a client to consent agendas.

[Monday 15 January 2018]

Making boards run more effectively by introducing consent agendas can be hard work, and you may not succeed. Here are some tips to make it work.


Every item on the consent agenda must have a number. We shall see why shortly.


Remember that a consent agenda covers items that have been delivered in advance in the board's packets. It is, by the way, still useful to refer to packets, even if we are talking about documents delivered by email or available online. If the documents are online, you might consider using the word packet as part of the directory name.

Work out how far ahead of the meeting the documents need to go out in order to be read by the board members. It may not be the usual number of days back from the meeting date that the meeting packets are sent out. One of the important issues with a consent agenda is that all the items must have been read by the board members before the meeting. If any member had a question, it should be asked and answered before the board meeting. You are probably aware of at least one board member who does not read their packet before the board meeting, and you must allow a sufficient number of days for all of the board members to have read their packets, without the excuse of not having had time to do so.

Bear in mind that a consent agenda must be accepted unanimously. You cannot have any board member not accepting it because they have not read the documents for it. This is not open for debate. All of the items in the consent agenda must be agreed unanimously.

Let's assume that you allow three days between the delivery of the consent agenda packet to the board members and the board meeting. This means that everythign in the packet is at least three days old. So nothing must be the packet that can have changed in the three days before the meeting.

I hope that you will be able to find a good balance between the lead time needed to read the packet and the freshness of its content; this may involve trial and error. It may result in a few meetings at which items have to be removed from the consent agenda during the meeting.

Removing items

During the meeting, the chairman will introduce the consent agenda.

Chairman: I place the consent agenda before the board. Shall we remove any item from the agenda?

Now any member of the board can reply.

Member: Item 3.

That is why every item must be numbered. The item is removed from the consent agenda without any further discussion at this time.

Chairman: Item 3 is removed. Shall we remove any other item from the agenda?

This continues until the chairman receives no reply.

Chairman: Items numbered 1, 2, and 4 through 8 are before you.

The chairman then calls for a vote of Ayes, Nays and abstentions. If everyone is in favour, with no objections or abstentions, the chairman can continue.

Chairman: The items are adopted.

The removed items can then be discussed immediately or at some part of the meeting agenda where they best fit. The secretary or recorder can guide the chairman on this.


The process is quite simple, although it may be new to some board members, and you will have to ensure that the chairman can deal with board members who like to go through every document almost line by line. You also need to make sure that any questions are asked and answered before the meeting.

We shall next look at ways of making sure that board members are not too eager to remove items.

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