Let’s Check The Minutes

Meeting MinutesEveryone has pet peeves. We are no exception. One thing we have noticed in our work is that the quality of minutes taken – or not taken – at meetings make a big impact on an organization’s effectiveness.

Meetings are a valuable investment of time on the part of those who attend. We share perspectives, make decisions, and determine direction. Minutes are a way we can look back and recall what was discussed, decided, and the actions we agreed to take. When minutes are not accurate the result can confusion, misunderstandings, and a failure to meet important commitments.

We agree. There are many reasons why minutes may not be accurate. Here are a few:

  1. Minute taker was unable to track the conversation and record important points. He attempted to transcribe what was said instead of summarizing and recording major points.
  2. The meeting itself was not well organized or well facilitated.
  3. Agreements were not clearly stated so they could be recorded.
  4. The minutes were not completed and distributed in a timely fashion. By the time participants received the minutes they had forgotten what happened at the meeting and were left to “assume” the minutes are correct.
  5. There is no established format for minutes.

But, these can be overcome. Here are a few high-level suggestions for how to take good minutes:

  1. Record the names of all people participating. Indicate who is absent.
  2. Use the meeting’s agenda as a starting point. Record a summary of major discussion points for each item on the agenda.
  3. When you hear a decision being made re-state the decision to ensure you are recording it correctly.
  4. Record action items in a “next steps” section of the minutes. For example: Elizabeth to follow up with Mayor by Friday.

Creating and distributing accurate minutes in a timely fashion can increase the effectiveness of meetings. Here are a few “positive outcomes.”

  1. People get in the habit of making quantifiable agreements with due dates
  2. Prior decisions are easily referenced without having to revisit the whole discussion
  3. New group members understand prior actions and decisions

As always, you can be part of the solution. Here’s some suggestions for what to do if you are dealing with challenges in area of meeting minutes:

  1. When facilitating a meeting, or playing an important role, take your own notes.
  2. Cross reference these against the minutes to help ensure accuracy.
  3. Have a quick meeting after the meeting with the minute taker and the meeting’s leadership to ensure key points and agreements were recorded.
  4. Circulate a draft of minutes within 48 hours so corrections can be made before being officially sent to all participants.
  5. As a participant make sure you review the minutes prior to the next meeting so you can wisely vote to approve or modify.
  6. Make sure you know where the official minutes are kept. They should all be in one place that is easily accessible.

That’s it for now! Let us know how accurate and timely minutes help your organization.

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