RE: Taking Minutes at Meetings

Subject: RE: Taking Minutes at Meetings
From: "Giordano, Connie" <Connie -dot- Giordano -at- FMR -dot- COM>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2001 15:03:24 -0500

Taking minutes is not demeaning in and of itself. Being expected to take
minutes because you make the documents look pretty is demeaning.

Those in favor of taking the minutes have very valid reasons. It can be
critical to a project's success, it's important to ensure everyone is
heading in the same direction, you get lots of additional information you
might not otherwise get, let everyone know you're a team player, etc.
However, as one who has faced the "you're a writer, you're a girl, you take
the minutes" attitude, I know why people feel it's demeaning. Both
attitudes demean your ability to contribute, and devalues the importance of
minutes in the first place. My value to the team is not in taking minutes,
it's in contributing to overall design, QA, and user support. If minutes
is a part of that contribution, fine, but it I'd never do that to initially
demonstrate my competence. They'd forever after use that first impression to
judge the remainder of my efforts. However, only you can determine whether
that task is low-value in your own team. Many places I've worked, it has
been. A few places it was simply a part of effective project management,
and everyone took ownership

The one case it worked well to let it be known that I took notes was when
during a status meeting. No one would own up to failing to perform a task
that really angered a very large client. In my own notes, taken for my
reasons, not the committee's, I found a reference to the person who had
agreed to take on the task, and the deadline he set. From then on, a notes
taker was established for each status meeting, and it was rotated among
engineers, QA, Doc, and project management. Minutes/notes as a task was
never taken for granted again, because people knew there would always be
someone who could call you on promises made but not kept.

Documentation and User Support are not afterthoughts, and handing the
minutes task to somebody to keep them busy until it's time to format a user
guide is counterproductive. It demonstrates ignorance, not only of the value
of documentation and the function it provides, but also of the whole point
of developing products as a team in the first place. Would I refuse to take
minutes? No. My professionalism is judged on my overall contribution, and I
do what I can to support my team. But occasionally I find it useful to
suggest that my notes are geared to my role in the process and may not take
into account everything that happens during the meeting. Just so it doesn't
blow up on me later on.

Connie Giordano
Senior Technical Writer
Advisor Technology Services
e-mail: Connie -dot- Giordano -at- fmr -dot- com

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me,
and I'll understand." - Native American Proverb

-----Original Message-----
From: Penny Staples [mailto:staplesp -at- airwire -dot- com]
Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2001 2:28 PM
Subject: Re: Taking Minutes at Meetings

I take meeting minutes and I don't see it as a demeaning thing. Neither do
other people in the meeting, as far as I can tell (I am often thanked,
specifically, for doing it). The more important the meeting, the more
it is for there be a clear, unambiguous summary made available afterward. As
writer, you are best qualified to provide this.

In our organization, there have been a number of occasions when the minutes
have been absolutely necessary for tracking a sequence of events and
Attitude is everything - as we see things here, I'm not filling a
role - I'm documenting the important decisions being made in the meeting
(otherwise I wouldn't do it).

The act of taking minutes doesn't make you a secretary. And refusing to take
minutes will not get you taken more seriously as a professional. As others
said, it's an opportunity to demonstrate your competence and understanding
the issues to the rest of the team.


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