Meeting Minutes

Why Keeping Meeting Minutes is Important

Keeping meeting minutes is a sign of a well-managed project.

Reasons and importance of writing down meeting minutes may be all too obvious. Yet, time and again teams and organizations big and small choose not to bother about it. It may be tempting to assume that professionals attending the meeting will understand and remember everything that was said during that meeting. Besides, the meeting organizer must be a busy person and has better things to do instead of copying things down.

Meeting minutes:

  1. Ensure everyone knows what they have to do, what they are responsible for

This eliminates confusion and frustrating situations when people show up to the next meeting without having worked on action items assigned to them. When asked why they came unprepared, the staff answers they did not understand that something was assigned to them.

  1. Provide visibility into the meeting and project progress

Reading meeting minutes can be great for everyone who is not attending the meeting

  1. Help monitoring project progress

Seeing action items and issues stay unresolved one meeting after another can signal the upper management that there may be an issue requiring upper management’s attention.

  1. Save time for staff

Some staff, e.g. upper management, needs to be appraised of meeting results, but does not need to participate in the actual discussion. Having well-written minutes allows this type of participants to skip attending meetings.

  1. Help writing weekly status and update schedule

Project manager can use meeting minutes reports when writing the weekly status and to update schedule

  1. Help ensure meeting decisions and minutes are error-free

Meeting minutes recipients can inspect the minutes and flag any errors. In particular, each staff member is likely to check carefully exactly what action items were assigned to them.

Meeting Minutes Example

Meeting minutes report can be a brief email that looks like this. You can download the meeting minutes sample in PDF format from here.

Meeting Minutes Sample - Engineema

Let’s look at the contents in detail:

  1. The email title contains meeting name, project name and “Meeting Minutes” heading
  • This makes it easy to find meeting minutes later in your email.
  1. The email is addressed to meeting both meeting attendees and non-attendees who need to be appraised of meeting results
  • For example, functional managers may not be attending project meetings, yet need to know in general what is happening with the project. Another example is when there are two or more teams working on the project. When the teams are located in vastly different time zones, some of the teams may not be able to attend, yet must know exactly what went on in each weekly meeting.
  1. Action Items section
  • Comes first and clearly lists what activity has been assigned to whom (note name specified in parenthesis), along with the due date
  1. Decisions made section
  • Clearly documents decisions. Decisions are not assigned to anyone.
  1. Attendees section
  • Lists all attendees – this is helpful to “debug” communication, attendance and efficiency issues.
  • Example: staff or the management may notice that someone else should be also attending this meeting.
  • Example: staff or management may notice that some attendees should not be attending the meeting – maybe those individuals don’t contribute to discussions or decisions and it is better to save their time.
  • Example: we may notice someone should attend, but keeps missing meetings (due to a schedule conflict?) and address that – maybe have a someone fill in for the person who cannot attend.
  1. Action Items from the Previous Meeting section
  • Take your minutes of the last meeting and copy action items into your email for today’s meeting
  • Cross out completed action items
  1. Attachments section
  • attach all documents presented at the meeting (e.g. PowerPoint, Word, PDF, emails)
  1. Email footer
  • All internal email communications should carry a standard “Confidential and Proprietary” footer. Having a disclaimer like that in all your internal correspondence might help you if (when) your internal email ends up with someone outside your company. I will talk more about marking company documentation in another post.

In the example above please note the following:

  • Barbara has completed an action item since the last meeting (set up synthesis flow) – that action shows crossed-out under “Action Items from Previous Meeting”
  • John has an action item last meeting (feature definition), listed under “Action Items from Previous Meeting”. That action item was not completed – its due-by date 1/15/2017 is same as email’s date 1/15/2017. This items remains listed under “Action items” and its due date has been extended to 2/1/2017.
  • Barbara has been assigned a new action item (to finalize choice of IP), due 2/1/2017
  • Three decisions were made about product schedule. The project manager can now copy these dates from the meeting minutes into the project schedule.
  • Barbara presented a document at the meeting (Synthesis_Report.ppt) – this document comes attached with the meeting minutes email

Keeping Meeting Minutes

The project manager (or staff acting in lieu of the project manager) can write down meeting notes after the actual meeting. However, it may be best to take minutes during the meeting, in real time. Although this may be obvious, there are several steps to keeping meeting minutes.

  1. Start meeting by reviewing progress since last meeting
  • Cross out completed action items
  1. Let the team discuss the business at hand
  2. Write down decisions and action items as are assigned
  • While you are sitting at the meeting table (or desk, if this is a remote meeting) with your notebook PC open
  1. Confirm correctness of each decision and action item
  • Show meeting notes to the meeting attendees in real time. Open up your email editor and type up the action items and decision as they are made/assigned during the meeting.
  • Turn your notebook screen (or display your screen using a projector – screen sharing software if this is a remote meeting) and ask attendees to confirm correctness of your notes. In particular, double-check correctness with whoever the action item you are typing up belongs to.
  1. Email minutes out
  • Promptly send out the minutes without delay at the end of the meeting or shortly thereafter.
  • Speedy and clear reporting is a sign of a well-managed organization and actually demonstrates that to your staff by example.

Weekly Report with Task Status – Individual Contributor

Here is an example of customizing the weekly report template to fit your needs. Some teams and organizations prefer to include Task Status into weekly reports. Task Status shows progress – usually as percentage of completion – of tasks assigned to the individual contributor. Receiving weekly task status may be helpful for the project manager – the project manager can simply copy task completion percentages from each individual contributor into the project management software, e.g. Microsoft Project.

You can download this sample report in PDF format here.

Weekly Report with Task Status Sample for an Individual Contributor

I feel that posting task status in this fashion is a little old-school – there are good, mature online project management and tracking tools where the individual contributor can log in and directly update his/her task status. In this situation, the project manager does not need to manually copy task completion percentages into the software – the online tools automatically roll up updates that individual contributors directly entered into one nice report or chart.

Customizing and Troubleshooting Weekly Reports

Customizing Team Member Reports

The basic report serves as a template that can be customized to fit the particular organization and its needs. Here are some possible customizations.

  1. Task status

Reporting tasks assigned to the team member and the percent of their completion can be helpful for project management. Task status can be formatted as a table. The project manager can copy this information into his schedule tracking software such as MS Project. Alternatively, if the team member updates schedule directly, he can copy relevant portions of the updated schedule into the report. See the article about online schedule tracking for more details.

  1. Activities for each day

Sometimes upper management may want to know how time was spent every day. Reporting daily activities can be done in the form of a table or by copying the daily time card, when applicable.

  1. Other Accomplishments

Some accomplishments may not relate directly to the projects at hand and thus may fit well into the “Highlights” section. Such items can be reported in a separate section named “Other Accomplishments”.

Customizing Team Manager Report

  1. Project or task status

When appropriate – particularly when the team manager is also the technical lead (called in short team lead), the report may contain a snapshot of the project completion status and schedule. The completion is usually specified in percent. The schedule can be reported as a snapshot of the Gantt chart or a table of task names and associated percent of completion.

  1. “Work in Progress” section

Have a “Work in Progress” section if the upper manager is interested to know what the team was doing during the reporting period, how time was spent – instead of or in addition to what was done, accomplished. This section should list all items from individual reports that did not go into the “Highlights” section.

  1. Translation

If the team member does not speak English, his or her report could be written in the native language. The team manager should translate that – or have that translated – into English and place in the Individual Activity section. A summary translation – a shortened version – may be acceptable.

  1. Shortened report

Individual activities and plans section can be removed and replaced with links to individual contributor reports. Alternatively, individual reports can be attached to the weekly instead of using the links. However, this approach may lack the convenience of seeing at-a-glance how time was spent by each team member. Next week plans cannot be seen at-a-glance too.

Troubleshooting Weekly Reports

Late or Missing Reports

  1. Do send weekly reports on time, even if some individual reports are late. This demonstrates that you take deadlines seriously.
  2. If an individual report is missing, summarize what you know about the progress of the team member who’s report is late. Substitute your own summary for team member’s report and indicate clearly that you wrote the status for that team member.
    If the team member’s report contains critical information which you don’t know, consider calling or texting the team member and getting the status in real time.
  3. After publishing the weekly, send a quick email to team members who’s reports are missing asking to send their reports ASAP anyway. You still may need those reports, even if they are late. This is especially important if the team member is under-performing. Late or missing reports may document the performance problem and serve as the paper trail to justify corrective actions. Lastly, by requesting the report you are also sending a message that being late is not acceptable – discipline is important.
  4. Schedule time with weekly reminder for the team to prepare individual reports. This will help ensuring it will not be taken away by other meetings. For example, in Outlook create a 30-minute weekly meeting before the reporting deadline with a pop-up reminder.
  5. If the reporting person has a planned absence on the day of report, he/she is responsible for sending in a report before he/she leaves. Planned absence is not an excuse. Only unplanned absence is.
  6. If the reporting day falls on a holiday, send a friendly reminder on the last day before holidays begin asking to send individual reports before leaving home.
  7. Do not miss reports yourself. Always designate a second-in-command to write the weekly report for you when you cannot do it. Show by example that taking care of business is a priority and things must get done regardless of someone’s absence

Reporting Language Problems

What if the reporting language is English, but some team members cannot not write in English well? If the team member can write broken English that can be understood – ask to use English. If the team member cannot write in English at all – make an exception and allow reporting in the team member’s native language.

However, the individual report should be translated into English – however briefly. The person to translate preferably should be the team manager – if the team manager speaks that language. Other possibilities include, if applicable, the administrative assistant or translator. Consider using translation software if all else fails.


To conclude the series of posts on weekly reporting – I feel that weekly reports are a critical and powerful instrument in the manager’s toolkit. The importance of this instrument should not be overlooked. I hope you see by now exactly what it is good for, how to use it and in particular how to get the most of it.

Purposes of Weekly Report

Here is a summary of purposes weekly reports can serve.

  1. Monitor

It is common knowledge that the main purpose of weekly reports is to share information for progress tracking purposes. However, there are many other important purposes a well-designed weekly report can serve. Note that the term is ‘monitoring’, not ‘tracking’ – other tools like schedules are better for tracking than weekly reports.

  1. Alert to critical issues

Use reports to formally alert the upper management about critical issues that require their immediate attention. Do you need to get your VP’s attention because you are running low on the number of tool licenses and you need more of them purchased? Write that down in your weekly report in the “Critical Issues” section.

  1. Verify communication

Check next week plans to see if recent requests for urgent work have been considered by the individual contributor(s). If a project manager asked Jack to urgently add a feature to software X, it should be reflected in Jack’s next week plan. If not, the project manager should check with Jack. Maybe Jack forgot or has other more urgent work? Or maybe the urgency of the request was mis-communicated or misunderstood?

  1. Build trust

Build trust by openly and objectively communicating the status. Firstly, forward the report back to your team, so they can read it and verify that you are reporting objectively. Secondly, strive to share the report with other teams to promote transparency. Show the organization that you have nothing to hide, no hidden agenda. Of course, the distribution may be subject to security limitations.

  1. Foster teamwork

Copy your report to leads of collaborating teams. If you want a team of people to collaborate, team members need to know what their colleagues are doing. Same goes for collaboration between teams. Keep them up-to-date to facilitate finding synergies between teams. For example, your team may have figured out how to optimize performance of a certain design or resolved a long-standing limitation. Keep other design teams updated in case they can re-use this approach.

  1. Motivate

Mention names of contributors who accomplished work in the “Highlights” section. This serves as a public recognition of their contribution.

  1. Focus on results

The “Highlights” section indicates to the team what is considered to be an achievement and what is not. This section should only mention work that has been finished, not work that is ongoing. For example, a report has been published, release was made – these are highlights. A report is being written, release is being prepared – these are not highlights and should be mentioned in the “Individual Activity – This Week” section instead of “Highlights”.
Additionally, releasing the weekly report always on time demonstrates by example that you take deadlines seriously.

  1. Provide organizational visibility

Archive your individual weekly reports, create a repository and strive to provide open and easy access to them to both staff, upper management and peer leads, when possible. This repository provide the visibility – what any particular team member was doing at any particular time.

  1. Debug inefficiencies

All weekly reports should be archived. Once in a while you and/or your upper management and/or project management should review the progress over months and years. You can consider such things as personal performance, project success and failures and organizational structure. You can look for factors facilitating personal, project and organizational success and look for factors that caused inefficiencies and failures. Who is having difficulty making progress, in which area and why? Is help or training needed or reassignment should be considered? Who and what contributed to successes, failures and delays? Why? Is the product architecture well thought-through? Did collaboration across teams work well – and if not, what caused the problems? Should organizational structure be changed for optimization purposes?
You can also “debug” project delays. Is communication between main office and foreign branches constantly causing repetitive delays? Reports can tell you why team spent more time than planned.

  1. Forecast schedule

When making estimates for new projects, it may be helpful to review weekly reports to examine how long it took to complete the activity in question in the past by each team member.

  1. Performance evaluation

Weekly reports can be excellent raw material for performance evaluations. They provide account of successes and help finding opportunities for staff’s professional improvement. High-quality performance evaluations rely of facts and examples of performance or lack thereof. Facts and examples is what good weekly reports provide. Also, you can also look for repeating patterns of performance for a deeper analysis.

  1. Promoting organizational culture

Simply put, organizational culture is the way things are done. Reports help establish and reflect the existing culture. You can show leadership by promoting company culture through your reports by example. Keep your reports objective, clear, timely and complete and this will reflect throughout your organization. Make your reports fair and distribute them as openly as possible to earn trust, facilitate team work and focus on results – and these values will too reflect throughout your organization.