Meeting Tip: The 'Parking Lot'
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
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
that the parking lot process is effective, we make the following suggestions.
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.
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.
- 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.
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
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
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.
such manoeuvres are rare. For
the most part the use of a parking lot in the manner recommended here is
for boards and board members alike.
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