Making meetings matter: the 3As report - Emily Sheen

13 December 2021

Last week we looked at ways to improve efficiency and save time in meetings – today GGI consultant Emily Sheen and principal consultant David Holden introduce a tool designed to ensure boards can be alerted, advised and assured on issues raised in meetings.

Board meetings are time-consuming and costly, so organisations have a responsibility to ensure they are well-run and that the discussions and decisions that emerge from them are not wasted. In short: meetings must matter.

One of the many challenges for NHS organisations in ensuring that meetings matter is how effectively they alert, assure and advise management and the board of directors. One of the mechanisms we use to ensure this happens is a report providing advice, assurance and alerts – the 3As report for short.

The 3As report provides a simple way for groups and committees to report to their parent group/committee or indeed to the executive group or board of directors. A template for such a report is provided below.

As well as listing the name of the meeting and date it was held, the template provides space for information such as:

  • whether the meeting was quorate
  • the key agenda items discussed
  • a review of key risks
  • what learning might be shared
  • what actions are to be escalated/de-escalated and need consideration by the parent group/committee.

The body of the report asks for

  • three key items for advice discussed at the meeting
  • three items of assurance
  • three alerts.

This three-of-each approach is intended as a guide and is not prescriptive.

The full report should be a maximum of two pages. We suggest that the chair of the meeting takes notes of the 3A items of advice, assure and alert throughout the meeting and agrees them with attendees at the conclusion of the meeting for reporting and escalation purposes.

While this 3As format is useful for reporting urgent matters to officers of an organisation in a useful sized briefing note, we would caution against this report being seen as a replacement for assurance reports to groups and committees that require greater detail for reporting for performance and assurance matters.

The 3As summary means the report can be quickly escalated to teams and management at the next level, rather than perhaps waiting for several weeks or even months for meeting minutes to be ratified. In some NHS trusts we have worked with, the 3As report forms the basis for care group/divisional team meetings, as it helpfully summarises the key points of a meeting. We have also seen the 3A’s format used as the basis for communication to all team/care group/divisional colleagues.

We hope this outline proves useful. We would be pleased to know if you have already adopted this approach and, if so, whether it works well for you. Equally, we are happy to assist organisations on the use of the report as part of our broader work on obtaining better, more efficient and effective meetings, our 3 Waves or 3 Cycles approach.

If you have any questions or comments about this blog, please call us on 07732 681120 or email advice@good-governance.org.uk.

Emily Sheen

Consultant

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David Holden

Principal Consultant

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Mike Weaver

Consultant

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