Some HOA boards have the need to discuss things ad nauseum and yet never come to a decision. It can be extremely frustrating when the same topic comes up on the agenda month, after month, after month, and after hours of discussion, nobody's willing to say either yes or no. They either need more information, want to hear from so-and-so who's not there, or avoid the topic altogether. So how can decision-making be improved for your Board?
Before making a final decision, develop a step-by-step framework the Board can go through before making a final decision, and start implementing it at your HOA board meetings.
Step 1: Understand the Issue and Implications
Sometimes decisions in an HOA seem more complex because there’s more at stake. Any risks or consequences directly affect the homeowner’s association and the quality of life of its members. This may feel overwhelming or there’s a fear of making the wrong decision, so Boards avoid making a final decision altogether. Be sure the issue being discussed, and the implications of the decision, are clearly understood by all board members.
For example, if a new law stating swimming pools in common areas must have fencing around them, then the implication of not taking action would put the HOA out of compliance, breaking the law, and ultimately opening itself up to lawsuits and putting the safety of members at risk.
Step 2: Discuss Solutions and Alternatives
Sometimes, an issue isn’t so cut-and-dry as staying in compliance with the law. For example, if there is extra money in the reserves to do a project, the board may evaluate if it’s time to start a new landscaping project, design new signage in the Association or re-allocate the money where necessary.
In this case, set aside time to brainstorm possible solutions and alternative options. Then, analyze these and filter out the solutions that are impossible, don’t serve a purpose, or are too far-fetched. This may require some research of the advantages and disadvantages of each option. This is also a good time to consult your governing documents to see if they offer any guidelines on the issue. Then you can ask Board members to rate each option on a numerical scale of 1 to 5 to help narrow down the options even further.
Step 3: Set a Timeline
Make it clear from the beginning when the decision needs to be made, even if the deadline can be flexible. If there’s a deadline, it will be easier to hold Board members accountable. Once you have a deadline, work backward from there and set smaller deadlines to include as agenda items at regularly scheduled meetings.
Step 4: Make the Decision
At this point, the Board has all the knowledge, information and discussion opportunities to make a final decision. There might be a clear solution, or it might end up being a combination of two or more options. Once the decision is made, decide what action items need to be made to implement the decision. For example, how the problem and solution will be communicated with owners in the Association and who is in charge of implementing the solution, such as the HOA manager or a board member.
Step 5: Monitor the Solution
Making and implementing the decision isn’t the end of the process. Delegate someone to keep an eye on how things are working to determine if the issue was resolved, if new problems have surfaced because of the action that was taken, the results just aren’t what was expected, or to celebrate the effectiveness of the decision that was made.
Having a systematic approach to help your Board make decisions offers the opportunity for every board member to contribute to the conversation and creates a collaborative environment where ideas, solutions, and concerns can be heard. Instead of being non-committal, more often than not, Board members will be enthusiastic about reaching a consensus.