IT Employment

Does anyone take notes in your meetings?


Last week I led a management development program for a large TV broadcasting network.  During the course of the discussion, we landed on the issue of meetings.  Of course this is a subject that is discussed all the time. And most people have opinions about them in every organization.  Not surprisingly, all 19 of the participants - ranging from manager level to director level - said they don't like meetings. (So what else is new?)

Basically they felt that meetings were a major waste of time with many people using them improperly and simply wasting the other participants already-too-short time.

When we got into it, each of them understood that meetings are a fact of life.  Many of the participants were the people who actually called meetings themselves. They admitted calling meetings fairly often. 

We discussed the ins and outs of, "what makes a meeting successful?" 

Interestingly, most felt like they're asked to attend meetings with no formal agenda.  They said they rarely have anyone taking minutes for distribution; and generally the meetings don't accomplish much except to say, "there's going to be another meeting". 

One of the more junior participants who's only been in the corporate world for about a year, noted that when he was back attending college it was "just obvious" that in every meeting somone would be appointed to be the notetaker.  He said that he just presumed everyone at his company was really good when he came to corporate life and saw no notetakers in the meetings.  "I figured, 'this is the big leagues and having a designated minute taker was only for amateurs."

When he made that comment, he immediately got an earful from the others.  Everyone, it seemed, thought it would be great to have minutes recorded and then sent out after a meeting so they could see what the next steps were; and if the meeting was executing the action required. 

Of course, no one wanted to be the notetaker. Two solid ideas came up:

  1. Rotating the person who acts as scribe, so no one is always in the role of group secretary.
  2. Keeping the published notes down to simple bullets with action items recorded. 

I believe that a new management style was born in this huge company.  Given how most people in most companies complain about wasting too much time in non-productive activity - these just make sense don't they?

                                                         See you next week

                                                                   john

                                                              Career Coach

 

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

25 comments
LocoLobo
LocoLobo

Usually our meetings are once a week or so. Mainly I take notes of my own assignments or topics of interest. I think others do that also. There is no formal notetaker. And yes we do have to go back to the manager and ask, "What did you want us to do?"

behmkj
behmkj

Use a recorder. The one provided by Windows worked well. It is not easy to listen, write and contribute to the meeting all at the same time.

djl4fzw
djl4fzw

I used a digital recorder for a while. I liked having all of the information at hand. Then I had to listen to the meeting all over again to create/confirm/or update my notes. I changed my tactics. I became an active "recorder" rather than a participant in the meeting. I split the recordings into chapters. This worked for a while but again, I ended up listening to the chapters again. I guess I ended up almost doubling my time investment to cover the same meetings. I still have the recorder. Now, I use it to record classes, and make notes to myself while I'm driving, but that's about it. I hope you have more productive results.

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

I work for a company whose ancestry links it to procedure laden British Nuclear Fuels and British Rail, so we have written (and reviewed and approved and authorised and classified) procedures for meetings, which include agenda, objective setting, pre-meeting notes distribution, attendance list, note taking, and result evaluation. If you are unfamiliar with the process it can take more time to read the instructions and prepare for the meeting than you will spend in the meeting. Does this make you think "oh dear - I couldn't be bothered with all that"? It should. It stops ineffectual project managers from calling an endless round of meetings to cover up their lack of ability. It stops micro-managers from calling their staff into daily meetings for no other purpose than to report on their activities. It seems that the mere fact that the meeting has to have a clearly defined objective allows my company to get by with less meeting rooms than most. Yet there are still rookies who will call a meeting without setting an agenda, or arranging for a note-taker. They soon learn, when the first ten minutes of their meeting is taken up with "I don't seem to have been sent the notes from the last meeting", or "your request didn't indicate if I was a compulsory attendee, if my input is not specifically required then I am needed at...". My colleagues moan as much as anybody about meetings, but a quick poll around the table shows that we average one meeting per month, rarely will two of my department be invited to the same meeting, and they could all access the notes from the meetings. This may not be the greatest job I ever had, but that's not because of the meetings.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

But at my previous job, typically it was dates and basic items of concern for only a VERY few individuals. While there might be some information, for the most part it was just making sure everyone was turning in their TPS reports with the proper cover page.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

But at my previous job, typically it was dates and basic items of concern for only a VERY few individuals. While there might be some information, for the most part it was just making sure everyone was turning in their TPS reports with the proper cover page.

Labrat636
Labrat636

My boss goes to them and I get the abridged version of what went on from him. I don't have time for management and admin crap - I have too many technical issues to address - and any meetings I do have for technical issues are small, very informal, completely ustructured and quick.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The problem with rotating the scribe is that not everyone takes notes well. (Remember in school when you knew whose notes to borrow and whose were a waste of time?) To help with this, it's useful to have a template that lists the major items common to all meetings (time, attendees, bullet points of discussions, action items with assignments and due dates, time of next meeting, etc.) This ensures a minimum level of quality for the notes. If this template is in an electronic format, the note taker du jour may fill it out on a laptop and publish the notes before leaving the meeting room.

DanLM
DanLM

The notes were always sent out in draft form to everyone for their review. If it was felt that things were missed, missinterpeted, or just wrong. Corrections were made. This usualy took a minimum 2 day turn around, but it was worth it. Because everyone agree'd on the meeting notes. This also solved the problem of people going.... That wasn't my action item, that was yours. People had to sign off on those meeting notes which then were used in moving the project/topic forward. Dan

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

Most important meetings are cyber conferences mostly. Recorded digitally in the conference room using speaker phones and web cams if need be. Once a week. I'll sometimes take written notes to get me started on whatever project before the paper work clears with exacting numbers and then I'll have the contract details in writing. We find meetings with management on regular schedules help keep them off our back until the next meeting. I also find the ongoing concerns open on tuesday will have evaporated before the weekend. Strange things happen the closer a major long weekend holiday.

goal120
goal120

My dear old dad, now retired, used to tell me he loved to volunteer to write the minutes for meetings. "After all, the one who writes the minutes controls the memory of what happened at the meeting... of course others can have input if they bother to read the draft, but my action items always made it onto the list!"

Wayne M.
Wayne M.

For periodic status meetings, the best method I have found is to have a dedicated war room with whiteboards, bulletin boards for 3x5 cards, and large 2'x3' notepads. Information is captured real time, so there are no questions about note taker bias. Using a dedicated room (or wall) eliminates the need to write up and distribute notes; the information is there for anyone who chooses to walk by and look. This saves a considerable amount of time spent in typing up minutes that are just as often ignored. I have also found a much higher compliance rate with action items when they are continuously visible.

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

where I use the time to take a quick nap because the agenda of the meeting has absolutely nothing to do with me, nor do I know why I am even invited to those stupid things as an independent contractor when the topic is outside the scope of my job.

DanLM
DanLM

lag, page not found, duplicate posts.. Christ, I usualy reserve the type of language that I have been using lately when I post here to when I drive back and forth to work. grrrrr. TR. Hammer. Big freaken hammer. It fix's everything. If you break it, then duct tape works for fix's. But, please. Get the damn hammer out and fix this. dan

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

won't let me, as I never ask for anything less than a twenty dollar note. On a reality side, most people take notes of what interests them, and no one takes and formal meeting minutes, as it takes too much time to write them up and send them out. They do record the meetings just in case there's an argument about what was said.

Tig2
Tig2

Longhand on a pink ribbon notepad (they make them in 8.5x11!!!). I will pull action items for both myself and others. I will generally learn new information. And I will gain insight. My notes are always the thing I hold dearest and the last thing I shred. I have a package of pens with 8 colours that I have designated for specific things. I change pens frequently. I also have a package of highlighters (11 of them) that have their own designations. This way I can glance at my written notes and know what I need to prioritise. It works for me.

Shellbot
Shellbot

that i'm not the only person who does this.. people in my office laugh at me for having so many pens and highlighters!!! even different colored Post-its.. helps me keep track of everything. as for meeting notes, i generally get stuck doing them..how i hate it, but i do point form minutes for everyone..at first the complained they didn't like point form, untill i said, that how i do em, if you don't like, do it yourself. no complaints since

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