013 Meeting Minutes for Ninjas

meeting-minutes“Okay to summarize, we haven’t made a decision yet and we expect to revisit this same conversation the next time we meet,” said Joan.

“That sounds about right. And the next time we meet, we’ll forget the progress that we made in this meeting and we’ll rehash and start from the beginning again,” Alex replied scribbling on the paper in front of him.

“And no action will be taken,” Tim sighed as he looked to see what Alex was writing.

“That doesn’t sound very efficient,” Alex said as he looked up from his doodle of a pyramid of spheres.

“Well it would help if we wrote down the meeting minutes,” Steph said pointedly.

“OK, Steph, you take meeting minutes for the meeting today and from this day forward. Send them out tomorrow and we’ll meet again in two weeks.” Catherine said as she gathered up her papers and walked out of the room.

I’m sure that you have never participated in a conversation like that above, but I’m also sure that parts of this conversation have run through your head at some point during a particularly bad meeting.   Meetings are tedious and unproductive when you rehash the same issues each time you meet. Recording and distributing the meeting minutes can help keep communication focused and accurate. By the simple act of documenting decisions, action items, and responsibilities, (all the things the meeting minutes force you to do), you will make the meeting more productive. This post will discuss the often forgotten project management tool and ways to make meeting minute creation less painful.

  1. Throw out the fancy formatting and letterhead and send via email. I do this often for internal and non-reoccurring meetings. I used this strategy when I was a consultant as a way to record decisions in structural- architectural coordination meetings. Recently I wrote minutes for a meeting that looked something like this:
  1. Date: 09/14/2015
  2. Attendees: Stakeholder 1, Stakeholder 2, Stakeholder 3
  3. Purpose: The purpose of this meeting was to determine which design option we prefer.
  4. Stakeholder 1 reviewed option 1 with the group.
  5. Stakeholder 2 reviewed options 2 & 3 with the group.
  6. It was decided to go with option 3 because of x, y, and z.
  1. Write the minutes into an electronic document file such as Pages (free Apple word processing software) during the meeting. I use the meeting agenda as the format for the meeting minutes. Each agenda topic is the heading with meeting minute bullet points underneath. Before the meeting I save the agenda to Pages and then write the meeting minutes on my iPad during the meeting. After the meeting, I download the Pages document from iCloud as a word document and edit as needed and then I send the minutes to the attendees as a pdf.
  1. Let someone else do it. This is by far the easiest (grin), but I still take notes for myself. In this case I write them into a Pages document, same as step 2., and if there is an action item for me, I put AED in the bullet point to catch my attention when I read my notes after the meeting. When I receive the official meeting minutes, I’ll review them with my notes to verify that everything was captured accurately.
  1. Write only notes that pertain to the purpose of the meeting. Meetings are always hijacked by a verbose, detail oriented participant who will go off on a tangent that is semi-related to the topic at hand but not really (typically in my experience these are engineers (grin)). The person running the meeting will rein the person in and I will suggest that we have another meeting on that topic if it is really needed.
  1. Bullet points are best. Record what is presented, reviewed, decided, or discussed using short bullet points. This will ensure that the minutes are read and reviewed by the attendees. 
  1. Edit and send out the minutes within two days of the meeting. This is common sense. I don’t always do it, but when I do, it is easier and faster because the meeting is fresh in my mind. 

As my instructor at Arizona State University, R. Nicholas Loope, would say, “The person who writes the meeting minutes holds the power.” If you think about it, the minute taker is writing the history of the meeting and they can input their perspective as they see fit. Rather than see meeting minutes as a burden, see them as an opportunity to save time and make meetings more efficient.

What do you think- are meeting minutes a waste of time for some meetings? Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section or share on Facebook.

Don’t forget to join my Project Management Dean Facebook page- see the like button to the right.



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