It’s kind of old fashioned, having a meeting agenda, following it and then taking the minutes. “No one reads them anyway” is a call for abolition I hear regularly.  All I know is that it is often useful to be able to look back and to trace decisions and to remind oneself, not necessarily who said what and when but more what were the agreements and the specific actions that arose from them.

I write this because so many aspects of our business lives are changing that it is easy to let slip the basic things that just maybe are better being kept, rather than dropped and forgotten.  And what better time of the year to reflect on what has worked well during the year and what, indeed, needs to change.

For me, as you have guessed already, it’s meeting minutes, or rather the lack of them or their late delivery.  I used to be meticulous in this area and somehow I let it slip.  Some of my clients and colleagues too seem to have dropped old fashioned agendas and meeting protocols for loosely structured debates with little or no conclusions, preferring a gradual morphing of concepts rather than hard decisions and actions. But my observations are that too often these kinds of meetings result with people forgetting what was agreed and simply carrying on as if nothing ever was decided.

Now meeting minutes are not the be all and end all, but they can be effective, especially if you have someone really good at taking them.  The trick I learnt from sitting on the board of governors of a religious group once, was that when a discussion had been concluded, the elders would agree on the exact wording for the meeting minutes and they were immediately documented and read back to the group. And when having heard them read out loud (which is a powerful tool for both reflection and memory) everyone was still aligned, the meeting could move on to the next agenda item. At times it seemed clumsy and slow but it was extremely effective in as much as everyone was strongly encouraged to align, around a topic, came up with a statement that defined it and agree on the consequent actions.

So for 2016, I am going back to encourage my colleagues to go back to old fashioned minute taking. I will not insist on trying capture who said what, unless there is very good reason, but I encourage my teams to come to defined agreements defined and to capture them in words on a document that can be circulated instantly during the meeting, or at least immediately afterwards, by way of link to the central data repository.  Let’s see how long I can keep it up this time around!

If my colleagues see the benefit, then it will stick, if they don’t then there’s a good chance I will be moaning about it, this time next year. Now what I need is a change manager, any offers?

Have a good week

Happy Christmas!