March 24, 2014
This is bonus coverage from “Flip That Meeting” in the April 2014 issue of Credit Union Management magazine.
I recently conducted a three-hour seminar on governance, focusing on strategy and the board-CEO relationship. It was a “flipped” meeting, meaning pre-work and planning facilitated immediate strategic discussion when people were gathered in person.
More specifically, participants studied a dense PowerPoint (with additional references) on both topics before the meeting. At the meeting, I announced we would start with the strategy topic, asking: “What are your questions?” Immediate learning fusion commenced, with the audience controlling the topics, flow and depth of dialogue, while I served as a learning coach and subject matter expert. The next topic went similarly and evaluation results were off-the-charts positive.
Such “flipping” can be effective in a variety of settings, including board learning events and regular board meetings. Because making future-facing strategic choices is the No. 2 challenge facing boards (fiduciary accountability remains No. 1), doesn’t it make sense to increase the time spent in dialogue about those issues? That definitely means it’s worth not sitting through a background presentation you could have digested casually over a cup of coffee.
Instead make board workshops and seminars more dynamic and powerful. Beforehand, look at video lecturettes, articles and data summaries. Come prepared to apply what you’ve digested. Think of teachers as coaches, not lecturers. Participants become active in their own learning. People failing to invest in the pre-study soon change that behavior.
When you use flip techniques at your regular board meetings, you get to take back precious hours every month. Use face-to-face interaction for the most valuable investment you can make: dialogue to gain perspective and make decisions.
At a recent board meeting, I coached a senior manager who was experimenting with the “flip presentation.” He submitted a tight PowerPoint for pre-read, announcing that at the meeting he would only take questions and facilitate discussion. The topic was a major new vendor decision that management had already made. No board action was required; however, board understanding of how the decision contributed to strategic goals was important.
With the “flip” format, the entire agenda item was accomplished in 13 minutes, saving 17 minutes of board time from the previous process of 15-minute presentation, 15-minute discussion. Multiply 17 minutes by the number of agenda items, and the total time that can be saved adds up rather quickly.
More Best Practices
I’ve introduced this to numerous boards and all find it a better way to conduct business.
For most of us, the typical meeting is patterned after how our predecessors did it. In the flip meeting all the other board meeting best practices still apply:
- Provide agendas at least 24 hours in advance.
- Clearly identify the outcomes expected from the meeting.
- Provide background executive summaries (of one page) on each topic or issue, and assign anyone expecting to present to also do an executive summary before the meeting.
- Start and stop the meeting on time—45 minutes is a good time frame to provide urgency and accomplish good decision-making on most items.
Flipped meetings can be informed by research being done into flipping classrooms and blended learning approaches. If you’re thinking of trying it, use the following resources to help:
- Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams
- The entry on “flip teaching” on Wikipedia
- 101 Ways to Flip by Barbi Honeycutt, Ph.D.
- Trend Watch: Flip Learning by Christine Born
- Governance as Leadership by Richard P. Chait, William P. Ryan, Barbara E. Taylor
Les Wallace, Ph.D., the 9Minute Mentor, is president of Signature Resources Inc. He is co-author of A Legacy of 21st Century Leadership and author of Principles of 21st Century Governance. He is a frequent speaker and consultant on leadership.