April 2010                                                                                              Issue 2

BoardWorks International

 

 
 
 
 
Top Board Meeting Tip: The 'Parking Lot'
  
  

Board Meeting Tip: The 'Parking Lot'

A parking lot is a useful place to store members' vehicles during a board meeting.  The 'parking lot' referred to in this article, however, is a somewhat different concept.  It refers to a useful process for keeping track of matters arising during the course of a meeting that are worthy of further attention - but just not today. This boardroom parking lot is simply the place (often a flip chart) where the board 'parks' any matters that arise (e.g. ideas, questions and future agenda topics) that aren't on its agenda, but which the board agrees could be important or valuable to consider at another time. The use of a parking lot (sometimes also called an 'issues list') helps to keep the present board meeting on task and moving forward.

To ensure that the parking lot process is effective, we make the following suggestions.

  1. Make the list visible. A flip chart in the corner of the meeting room is a good place to put this material.  The contributors of the ideas going up on the list can see that they have been heard and acknowledged.
  2. Appoint the board secretary or some other suitable person (perhaps even one of the board members) to verify the description of matters being added to the list and to maintain the list in good order.
  3. Review the list.  At the end of the meeting conduct a brief review of the list's content.  The board should decide what, if anything, is going to happen to each of the matters on the list. Often it is the case that contributors or others will suggest that a matter has been overtaken by subsequent board discussion and is no longer relevant.
  4. Assign responsibility and timelines for completing the follow-up.  Suitable references should be added to the action list the board would have generated in the earlier part of the meeting. Parking lot material should form part of the meeting record.

For chairs, in particular, it is also worth keeping an eye on the use of the parking lot.  For example, does the usage pattern suggest that there are major areas of potential board deliberation that are not reflected in the board's work programme?  Do some directors offer ideas that repeatedly end up on the parking lot?  Do they need coaching or other interventions to help them keep to the agenda?
 

The board as a whole may also be interested in the analysis of these patterns.  Like any tool or technique the parking lot can be misused or misapplied.  Influential directors can push for the assignment of matters to the parking lot to postpone or stifle timely discussion on particular issues. The process can also be used to 'close down' or marginalise individual board members whose contributions are not particularly welcome.

Thankfully, however, such manoeuvres are rare. For the most part the use of a parking lot in the manner recommended here is a boon for boards and board members alike.

 
 
 

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BoardWorks International is a specialist governance effectiveness consultancy dedicated to assisting governing boards to provide effective strategic leadership to their enterprises and to fulfil their fiduciary and stewardship responsibilities to their stakeholders. It is also our aim to make 'board work' a satisfying and enjoyable experience for all who serve on or provide support to, governing boards.