A friend of mine complained bitterly the other day about the ten pages of ‘minutes’ she had to write for the quarterly board meeting she recently attended.
“It takes me hours to write these up and half the time I can’t make sense of my own notes and who said what” she said. “I’m also unsure whether what I’m writing is even relevant to the agenda item; so all I can do is make the minutes as comprehensive as possible so no-one questions what I’ve done or complains later.”
As her words tailed off I wondered whether anyone would read any of the minutes anyway. People at work are swamped by data and information, yet ironically are more time-poor than ever before.
Fed up with burning the midnight oil she asked for advice so she didn’t have to go through the same painful experience again:
Here’s what I suggested:
- Good minutes should only record the actions or points on which the group is agreed. Clear information about who is responsible for fulfilling the action is also required. It is an unnecessary waste of time recording who said what.
- Ahead of the next meeting ask the Board to agree to the principle of shortened minutes so people know what to expect when they are shared later. People should be invited to make their own additional notes in the meeting if they want more detail.
- Linked to the above, each agenda item should require the Board to act by using phrases such as: ‘Agree to…’; ‘Consider whether… ‘Receive report from…’. Board meetings often confuse or fail to progress matters because the agenda item simply says something like ‘Staff’ or ‘Finance’.
- As the minute taker at a meeting seek immediate clarification from those around the table if you are uncertain about the exact nature of any agreed action.
- Write the minutes as soon as after the meeting as possible and keep them to the point on 2 or 3 sides of A4 maximum.
- At the following meeting first go through the action points to record progress.