Whether it is a large or a small association, every community's board of directors has a lot to think about - most of which requires that somebody, somewhere take action. And yet, in spite of us all purporting to hate long meetings and wasted time, many boards tend to repeat the same topics month after month, without much actually being DONE about it in the time between (unless the management company does it.)
Andrea Meyer-Smith, PCAM recounts one story in which the board of directors completely dropped the ball:
"For one association, I noticed that many items were being discussed month after month with no resolution or follow up. Once, the President stated at the annual meeting that the lamp posts would be painted sometime the following year. The board discussed getting bids in January and requested that maintenance obtain three bids. This item was not discussed under old business the following month or subsequently thereafter. During my tour of the property, I could clearly see that the poles were never painted, more than a year later."
Painting poles may seem to be the least of the Boards worries when they are routinely confronted with major emergencies that need to be handled, but from the homeowner perspective, if the board fails to follow through on this small thing, what major things are they likely to be missing as well? And those unpainted poles serve as a daily reminder that the board (and by extension the management) are not doing their job.
As the management company representative, one of the things the Board looks to you for is to help provide them with a structure that they can follow. Their failure is your failure. But there is a better way, explains Andrea:
"Once an item has been put on the agenda and visited, it should be followed up on or tabled. I believe that after each meeting, an action item list should be created and monitored to track the progress of actions needing attention and items that have been completed.
When preparing the agenda, the manager should review the previous agenda and minutes to bring forward items that are still outstanding and where follow up is needed.
This also is important to measure whether the management team is operating effectively and completing items voted on in a timely manner."
An Action Item Report is an excellent way to keep track of what's been discussed, what has been done, and what remains to be done. This structured to do list gives the board an easy monthly snapshot of the issues facing the community, and can assist them in making decisions more quickly without the need to rehash the same old discussions month after month.
The action item report is more than just a to do list. Here are some of the 'hidden benefits' it offers:
Faster Meetings - Use the Action Item list to build your meeting agenda. The easy reference of the list items can help reduce discussion time, prevent redundant discussions, and speed up the decision making process.
Budget time? Use the action item list to help the board build a better picture of unpredictable expenses and pending issues that will need to be handled in the coming year.
Is the community being sued? The Action Item list (along with the minutes) can help you compile a schedule of the events and the actions taken by the board in a timeline that will hold up in court.
Have to levy a special assessment? Show homeowners that you have exhausted every possibility.
Contract renewal time? Use the action item list to remind the board of all the major achievements they have made thanks to your involvement.
Election time? Board members can use the action item list to help compile a list of all of the things the incumbent board has done for the community in the recent past.
- Procrastinator's Friend - Serving on the Board is a voluntary job, and often board members get caught up in their regular life and forget what they were supposed to do between meetings. The action item list helps them stay on track and get things crossed off between meetings.
About a month ago, we sent out a request to CAM Blog subscribers asking about how you use Excel, and what worksheets you have found helped you succeed in community association management. The sample Action Item Worksheet we have prepared for you today was generously provided by Nancy Stephens Carter of Stephens & Company Community Management Services in Leesburg, VA.
Nancy had this to say about the worksheet:
"We use Excel for our Action Item Report. Open items are at the top. Whenever something is done, or an updated message about the specific action item, it is added to the column on the right, with the author’s initials in parentheses. Some items go on and on, until they are closed.
When I’m printing the report for the board, I generally make the last entry in bold. That way we can see the most current status. When an item is completed, it is marked “closed” and moved to the middle section. Once the report is sent to the board or included in the board packet, all closed items in the middle section are moved to the bottom of the third section.
Other managers may have a better way of keeping up with action items, but this has been the best to work for us."
Thanks, Nancy. I think this will be a great resource for all of our readers!