Back to basics. Sometimes it is all about how well you can write meeting minutes.

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Back to basics. Sometimes it is all about how well you can write meeting minutes.



I was recently talking to my friend, product manager in large financial institution who is dealing with projects delivering process digitalization and large systems integration. I asked her what would really help her teams in the context of their projects. I expected anything but this: improvement of quality of meeting minutes.

In large organizations with concurrent running projects, numerous stakeholders and distributed teams is communication a key. Sharing information is vital for making the right decisions, assigning priorities and managing tasks across multiple projects. Meeting minutes are supposed to inform its recipients about decisions made, tasks assigned and discussed issues. It really is important to do the meeting minutes right because otherwise information get lost and things do not happen as intended.

Here are my personal tips how to write good meeting minutes:

  1. Prepare before the meeting and pre-fill your template
    1. Use template with prefilled names of participants. When the meeting starts, only indicate who is present on your list. It is saving a bit of time.
    2. Every meeting should have at least simple agenda. Fill in your agenda in the meeting minutes template in advance. It will help you to structure the notes as the meeting goes.
  2. Type the minutes during the meeting
    1. Type the minutes during the discussion. It helps to capture all important information but mostly it avoids spending your valuable time by writing the minutes after the meeting.
    2. I will not lie, I learned to type fast. I still type just with 3 – 4 fingers max but that’s enough.
    3. Following discussion and making notes at the same time requires practice. Facilitate the meeting in blocks following your agenda. Always summarize loud what was agreed, what next steps will be taken, who will be responsible and inform the participants that you are writing it down right now.
    4. Rather describe then abbreviate. Keep your audience on mind when summarizing the notes. It is worth to describe what really happened, which points were raised and what was the full conclusion. Short statements without context are not very helpful when it comes to figuring out what should be done next or why were certain things agreed.
  3. Distribute the meeting minutes with executive summary
    1. When the meeting is over, your notes are finished and ready for distribution. But not that fast… as not so many people enjoy writing meeting minutes, I’m not sure if there are many more who like reading them.
    2. When crafting the email to distribute the meeting minutes, prepare short executive summary that you put in the email body. Include the main agreements, high priority tasks and next steps. The recipients will appreciate that because it is saving their time and gives them quick, valuable overview.

 

Meeting minutes are not only part of basic project communication or, as often seen, administrative task that just takes time. As a project manager, you may use the meeting minutes as a tool that helps you to build trust with your stakeholders. Meeting minutes that document well what was discussed and what was agreed are sign of transparency and open communication. And that counts on a long term!

Posted on: November 21, 2018 11:27 AM | Permalink

Comments (27)

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Thanks Lenka. I have learned valuable points.
Indeed, a succinct executive summary of the meeting minutes is important to provide valuable overview to engage the recipients.

Nice article and spot-on points.
I can't emphasize enough how important it is to be the one to take effective notes. I constantly receive compliments from executives on my ability to take accurate notes and lead meetings. (Thanks, mom, for making me take piano lessons for so many years so that I can type so well!)
In terms of tools for effective note taking, I highly recommend Microsoft OneNote.

@Panx, thanks!
@Chris, I know what you mean:) in my experience C-levelhighly appreciate good summary and accuracy of the notes. Especially when you need to look for some vendor contract related detail couple of month after the meeting happened.

Thanks for sharing, Lenka! Two things I've found which have helped me a lot in getting focus on the content are:

1. Before everyone leaves, review the action items and confirm ownership.
2. Distribute the minutes within 24 hours of the meeting.

Kiron

Thanks Lenka, some great points.

You might also like to add the following for difficult projects where one is having challenges with an attendee not showing up to meetings and therefore claiming that they were not consulted prior to decisions being made. If it is a recurring meeting, number each meeting on the agenda and minutes. In addition to recording peoples attendance on the minutes, also record the running total of meetings they attended next to their name. The serial offender soon stands out. Once they realise that others and possibly their boss have visibility of their of attendance, their attendance either improves or their ability to argue they were not included goes away. Failing that a conversation with their manager about the issue soon rectifies the situation as the evidence is conclusive.

@Mark, thanks for your addition, that sounds really tough:) but I agree, it is very frustrating when people are not attending critical meetings and delay decisions

Great points, Lenka.
Would also suggest other forms of distribution, such as an organized central store for minutes. This would allow to simply either send a downstream notification of a new artifact or at minimum send through the exec summary with a link to the notes. Bring the people to the content.

Good points. I like to generate the Minutes in the Email tool and put the Action Item up front with the record of discussion lower in the body of the Email. This allow viewing by cellphone with the most important items visible with extensive scrolling through discussions.

Also, I send the Meeting Appointment/Agenda in the Email body with the purpose and a list of topics as well as any request to invitees for resolving critical issues.

Thanks Henry, Andrew and Kiron for your additions! All great practice tips.

A very underestimated but powerful tool Lenka. "Truth" is in the hands of the history writers, whether it's true or not. Writing down minutes can help resolve misconceptions about what was actually discussed. It allows the writer to record what in the end becomes historical record.

Nice set of points, history is remembered by the documented part, better write it.

Amazing article about minutes of meeting !! It solves any issues by documentation and distribution to all stakeholders!!!!

Very interesting, thanks for sharing

great discussion....with good minutes a PM can conquer the world! Action Items do rock!

I try to assign a scribe, to be able to follow the discussion and intervene when necessary. It is not a low skills job, but a good challenge for an project management assistant.

With the years going by, memory becomes something more and more unreliable.Then, it is worth to document meetings somewhere instead of trying to remember them.

The value of Meeting Mnutes will be a function of the Meeting quality and its realization of the meeting purpose. Here are Good Practices for Project/Progress Meetings.

https://www.projectmanagement.com/blog-post/36026/Good-Practices-for-Project-Progress-Meetings

Thanks for the article, Lenka. Is an important thing to the benefits of the project as well as for its success. Your tips are very usefull for that.

Often, in my projects, I have meetings with people who love themselves when speaking, and they speak too much, “decorating” every sentence... This makes typing minutes harder during the meeting... Does it happen to you?

@Sergio, very good question! I guess there are always people with various communication styles. I would recommend to practice active listening and summarize what was said to ensure that you have the right understanding, to formulate conclusion for your meeting minutes and to point out the most important information to the rest of the team.
It is also good to think upfront how to give space to everyone, not only to the people who usually speak the most. Distributing talking points to the team may help.

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