Governance

How to prepare a chronology

A chronology is an extremely efficient tool for providing a committee with a full but succinct account of the background to an issue, and for reducing the work of Executive Officers.

  1. Requirement
  2. Key elements
  3. Example

Requirement

Rule 10 requires, among other things, that "if items have been discussed previously, a chronology of key elements of the discussion should be attached" to the agenda.

The term "a chronology" is used at UWA to mean a document which provides a listing, in strict chronological order, of all key occurrences/decisions relating to an issue which is discussed on a number of occasions by one committee, or discussed in turn by a number of different committees. The chronology often also provides succinct information on the background to the issue. The use of a chronology is intended to reduce the workload associated with agenda items dealing with such issues.

Whenever these ongoing issues appear in agenda items, the members need to be given the full background on the origin of the item, on key elements of any discussions to date and on any decisions/ recommendations already made. It's very inefficient if this information has to be repeated in every agenda item, or if the same material has to be researched by more than one Executive Officer. A chronology provides the background and progress to date of any item which has (or is obviously going to have) a history.

 It's updated after every discussion, and for any item which moves from one committee to another should be passed from Executive Officer to Executive Officer electronically.

You could be forgiven for wondering whether producing a chronology is just one more chore for you. The good news is that even at the outset it shouldn't take any more time than writing a standard agenda item, and thereafter it will save you (and probably others) considerable time because you won't need to write extensive agenda items. And you may also benefit from using chronologies prepared by other Executive Officers.

So how do you go about preparing a chronology? Let's have a look at what you might include in the document, before referring you to an example.

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Key elements

Introduction of the issue/s

  • You may find it helpful to write a brief background to the issue/s in question. What precisely is/are the issue/s? How and when did it/they arise? Is there a specific timeframe for response (for example, as with many issues referred by faculties to their Schools, by the Academic Council to faculties, or by State bodies to the University) How important are the issues for the school, faculty, University in terms of the impact of any decisions taken? Is there any background documentation (such as a discussion paper) that committee members can access?

Presentation in strict date order

  • It's important that those reading the chronology can follow the history of what happened in strict date order. So be careful to ensure that your record is in this form.

File references

  • If you've sourced your information from University files (whether central files or School files) include the relevant file and folio (that is, file page) references. This will be helpful not only to you, if you ever need to go back to the sources of your information, but also to others who may need to refer to those sources for further/other information.

Precise information

  • Be as precise and accurate as possible in recording information. For example:

  • record the precise dates (day/month/year) of discussions

  • record any resolutions precisely (give the number and year of the resolution, the date of the meeting and the correct name of the committee)

  • be sure that you record the correct details of any references to documents (e.g. the Curriculum Council's Post-Compulsory Education Review Position Paper), organisations or people

  • be sure that any references to materials on the Web are accurate

Brief summaries of developments

  • The chronology should give a succinct but comprehensive summary of all the developments relating to the issue. These developments will be often be encapsulated in resolutions (which you can quote) or other decisions taken (which you can summarise; for example, the Faculty of Law agreed to defer consideration of the item until the next meeting) You should record developments (such as, discussion of the item at a specific meeting) even if there was no notable outcome from them, as they are all part of the record of the item's progress.

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Example

The sample chronology may help to illustrate how a chronology is put together.

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