Consent Schedules can save you time in meetings

A Consent Schedule is a great tool to shorten any meeting Most meetings which people attend contain a number of items on the agenda. Some meetings contain a few topics, others contain many topics. Regardless of the number of topics and the length of the agenda, a Consent Schedule is a really useful tool to use to reduce the length of the meeting.

Most meetings will have certain items about which there is very little disagreement. An interesting observation of human behaviour however is that even where there is very little disagreement, human beings seem to want to talk and talk and talk. Even though everyone agrees, human beings seem to want everyone to know that they agree.

While this may be interesting and while it may stroke people’s egos, it doesn’t contribute greatly to the productivity and effectiveness of a meeting. The use of a Consent Schedule can help this enormously.

Here is the way it works – The person preparing the agenda usually the secretary/minute taker and/or chairman works with the other person so that two people together decide which issues on the agenda will create minimal disagreement or none. These items are all left on the agenda but they are copied to another document called the Consent Schedule.

The Consent Schedule becomes a list of all of the items on the agenda which the president/chairperson and the secretary believe will not require discussion but can simply be agreed. This list may be short with only two or three items, or in a longer meeting it may include many items, each of which may be small in detail but may still be significant but for which there is anticipated to be no disagreement.

The Consent Schedule is then placed as a separate item on the agenda but very early on in the meeting, probably immediately following the confirmation of the minutes. This item is often called confirmation of the agenda. It can also be a separate piece of paper or it can be physically printed into the agenda itself, whichever way here is how it works.

The person chairing the meeting states that the Consent Schedule needs to be agreed to and asks if there are any items on the Consent Schedule which people want withdrawn.

One voice allows anything to be taken from the Consent Schedule or, you may over a time, determine that two voices are required to take something from the Consent Schedule – it’s up to you. My suggestion is to start with two and if that doesn’t work, go to one. So any two people can say – I’d like item x taken off the Consent Schedule and it then is dealt with when that item on the agenda is reached, because remember you’ve copied items from the agenda to the Consent Schedule, you have not cut them from the agenda – so they’re still there.

So you may end up with, let’s say, five items on the Consent Schedule upon which no-one disagrees and which everyone is happy to agree to. A motion is then called to agree to the items “en masse” of “en bloc”. One motion can be used for them all. The motion would be that all items on the amended Consent Schedule be agreed. That is moved, seconded and put to the vote. If it is carried then those five items when they are reached on the agenda are simply skipped because they are already dealt with. If anyone wants to raise them then, then it’s too late, they were dealt with in the Consent Schedule.

As your group or meeting becomes more mature it will get better and better at leaving things on the Consent Schedule in recognition of the increased effectiveness it gives and in recognition of the increased time it allows for the issues that really are worthy of discussion or where there is discussion required to reach agreement.

Consent Schedules are a useful tool to use in any meeting, business meeting or voluntary association or government appointed board. It is a wonderful way to take out items from the agenda upon which there is no disagreement and shorten the meeting.

Please Note: The author accepts no responsibility for anything which occurs directly or indirectly as a result of using any of the suggestions or procedures detailed in this blog. All suggestions and procedures are provided in good faith as general guidelines only and should be used in conjunction with relevant legislation, constitutions, rules, laws, by-laws, and with reasonable judgement.

2 Comments »

  1. avatar jason Says:

    the process can be simplified, as in some australian universities, by the use of ‘starred items’ whereby the Chair and Secretary meet before the meeting, to consider the agenda items. These officers then determine which items are formal, perfunctory or otherwise non-contraversial, and mark them with a star.
    the first order of business at the meeting would be for the chair to ask members if anyone wishes a starred item to be unstarred, and then put the question before the meeting “that those items remaining starred be approved, ratified or noted by the meeting, as appropriate” or similar.

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