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.
- 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.
- Provide visibility into the meeting and project progress
Reading meeting minutes can be great for everyone who is not attending the meeting
- 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.
- 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.
- Help writing weekly status and update schedule
Project manager can use meeting minutes reports when writing the weekly status and to update schedule
- 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.
Let’s look at the contents in detail:
- The email title contains meeting name, project name and “Meeting Minutes” heading
- This makes it easy to find meeting minutes later in your email.
- 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.
- 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
- Decisions made section
- Clearly documents decisions. Decisions are not assigned to anyone.
- 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.
- 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
- Attachments section
- attach all documents presented at the meeting (e.g. PowerPoint, Word, PDF, emails)
- 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.
- Start meeting by reviewing progress since last meeting
- Cross out completed action items
- Let the team discuss the business at hand
- 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
- 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.
- 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.