Meeting minutes is widely used in organizations as an accessory to meetings. Capturing minutes of the meeting efficiently is crucial for successful collaboration among stakeholders and can work wonders to drive a project. In this article, we will go over the basics of meeting minutes. Here's a quick overview of the topics we will cover:
What are meeting minutes?
Meeting minutes, also known as minutes of meeting (MoM) or meeting notes are written records of a meeting. Meeting minutes summarize the meeting to the reader by outlining an overview of the discussion and highlighting key decisions, action items and next steps. Meeting minutes can be a powerful mechanism to keep stakeholders aligned and drive accountability within team.
Why are meeting minutes important?
Meeting minutes is a versatile channel of communication and can be leveraged to serve different purposes as highlighted below:
- Align stakeholders. Meeting notes eliminate any ambiguity from the meeting discussion by documenting the meeting. This ensures consistent alignment amongst stakeholders which is critical for success of any project
- Drive accountability within the team. Meeting notes drive a sense of ownership among the involved attendees by highlighting action items/next steps along with timelines and owner details. Steve Jobs insisted every agenda item in the meeting should have a directly responsible individual (DRI) and believed that public accountability resulted in the task getting done.
- Provide visibility and resource for future reference. Sometimes meeting notes are re-shared with larger audience (leaders/other team members/external stakeholders) to update them on the project progress. They are also shared with new members to bring them up to speed on the project. Moreover, many teams work on long projects which span across months or even years. Since meeting notes document the key decisions that were made throughout the project lifecycle, they are used as a reference at a later point.
A study conducted by Department of Information Studies University of Sheffield, highlighted the importance of meeting notes with 63% of the participants claiming to take down personal notes in the meeting
Minutes are an important record of what we said we'd do and when we said we'd do it. I go back to them when people aren't happy that a particular situation has occurred because someone hasn't done something they said they'd do
How to write meeting minutes?
Now that we know the importance of meeting minutes, let’s talk about how to capture meeting minutes so that they are useful and serve the intended purpose. In general, meeting minutes should capture six elements of the meeting -
1. Meeting Date
5. Key Decisions
6. Action Items
Let's go over each of these in more detail.
- Meeting Date: While today Email suites capture the date and time automatically, documenting meeting date is important if the team is using other collaborative tools for note sharing (More on this in the coming section, keep reading!). Capturing date is useful when referencing back to older meeting notes to understand when a certain decision was made.
- Attendees: Capturing a snapshot of attendees in the meeting notes give the readers an opportunity to review the meeting attendance to ensure that the meeting had representation from all the concerned stakeholder/teams and that decisions were made in the presence of relevant decision makers. This element becomes important for projects where stakeholders represent different area of expertise and are responsible to drive actions in their functional group.
- Agenda: Productive meetings usually have a defined agenda and meeting owner, or attendees are expected to drive the agenda forward. This element might be redundant for meeting attendees but having visibility of meeting agenda is extremely valuable when meeting notes are re-shared with a larger group or referenced back at a later date. Knowing the agenda helps to level set the readers, build context and prepares them for the rest of the notes.
- Notes: As you might already know, not all discussions in the meeting result in decisions or next steps. This element will provide the reader an overview of the discussion during the meeting which might include insights gathered from other attendees, suggestions or feedback on the project progress etc. This section should capture any relevant information that was shared during the meeting. This can also be leveraged to document all the alternative approaches that were discussed, before the group landed on a certain decision or finalized the list of action items.
- Key Decisions: This gives the reader an overview of the decisions that were made during the meeting and the rationale behind the decisions. The reader can also tie this back to the attendee section to identify who made the decision. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, when motions and votes become part of the meeting record, the note-taker should capture the inputs of all the meeting participants. As mentioned earlier, documenting key decisions serves as a repository for the project which can be referenced back at any point in time.
- Action Items: Also called “Next Steps”. Documenting action items, tasks and next steps drive accountability among stakeholders. The best practice is to use bullets & numbering when capturing action items so that each line should reflect one unique action item. Moreover, every action item should have a clear owner and due date. While it is common to have multiple people working on one action item, there should be one person who owns the task in its entirety and is accountable for its completion.
It is important to note that the six elements outlined above serve as general guide on how to write meeting minutes. The relevance of some of these sections might vary based upon the need. For meetings like Project Kick-Offs, Project Reviews etc., capturing attendee list, key decisions and action items promote better project management. Whereas, for Team Meetings, 1:1s, Sprint Planning Meetings etc., capturing attendees list might not be as relevant as documenting key decisions and action items.
Who should write meeting minutes?
We have talked about the importance of meeting minutes and have outlined the layout of meeting notes, but we are yet to answer a key question... Who is responsible for capturing and sharing meeting minutes?
Well, any meeting attendee (SURPRISE!)
All meeting attendees are eligible to capture and share meeting notes. Usually, to ensure efficiency in note taking and avoid confusion, it is considered best practice to assign an individual to be note-taker for the meeting and share meeting minutes. If there is no assigned note taker, this responsibility is defaulted to the meeting owner.
For recurring meetings, it is a good practice to rotate the responsibility of note taking to ensure that attendees remain connected to the content and promote team spirit. Another collaborative approach is for attendees to capture personal notes throughout the meeting and share with the note-taker to build exhaustive meeting minutes.
When and how are meeting minutes shared?
Meeting notes should be shared at the earliest, after the meeting. This ensures that the content remains relevant, and the meeting attendees can review the notes for any inconsistencies. Sharing notes early also eliminates ambiguity if the stakeholders have already started working on the action items.
A common way to share meeting notes is via company email, but over time, emails get buried in the inbox and are challenging to refer back. To drive more collaboration, teams are also using other applications like JIRA, Asana or Slack to track individual tasks outlined in meetings. However, these applications fail to capture the context behind these tasks or provide meeting summary. Moreover, these tools might not be accessible to all stakeholders across the organization.
Since meeting minutes are a mechanism to Capture, Share, and Reference meeting outcomes, a lightweight tool like Loopin checks all boxes.