Taking minutes at meetings?

Subject: Taking minutes at meetings?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2001 11:30:28 -0500

Carol Wall reports: <<We've just be instructed by management that we are to
take minutes at the meetings we attend. These meetings generally discuss
business requirements and outstanding issues for the projects we work on.
The meetings also cover items that do not go into the documentation we
develop and frequently include task updates and assignments. We're feeling
undervalued and demeaned by this change -- the first time this unit has ever
taken minutes. Are we nuts to feel this way? Is it typical for tech
writers to take minutes? Words of advice?>>

Depends on whether you consider the glass half full or half empty. It's
certainly natural to feel unappreciated if you're given a task that suggests
your job requires nothing more sophisticated than the ability to write as
fast as someone else speaks, but if that's the case where you're working,
the problem isn't actually the fact that you're taking minutes: it's that
(for whatever reasons), you feel you're not being respected or understood as
a professional. The fact that you're invited to the meetings in the first
place suggests that this isn't necessarily the case, and given how many
techwhirlers are actively or passively prevented from attending meetings,
and thereby excluded from gathering vital information on what's going on
with a development project, I'd be more tempted to look on the glass as half
full. Rather than resenting the task, how could you use it to keep in touch
with your colleagues in the development team and thereby remind them that
you're part of the team. Taking the minutes is a tedious job that nobody
ever wants to do, and doing so cheerfully--and missing the occasional
meeting so that someone else has to do the work--can serve as a gentle
reminder that you're part of the team, and making their lives easier.

Besides, as Machiavelli once noted, she who records the minutes gets to
decide what was said... and as all historians know, this provides you with a
fair degree of power. ("Yes, we did agree to give the writers next Friday
off for good behavior. It says so right here in the minutes." <g>) Put in a
bit less manipulative terms, this means that you can ask people to stop
talking for a second and clarify what they've said ("I'm not sure I
understood that--do you mean ..."), ask them to fill in details ("you didn't
mention the interface freeze date; can I assume that you'll freeze it at the
end of the month?").

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that
English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words;
on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them
unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."-- James D. Nicoll


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