Re: Tech Writers taking minutes

Subject: Re: Tech Writers taking minutes
From: "Steve Arrants" <stephena -at- compbear -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 29 Jun 2002 12:08:46 -0700

"Lorrie Staples" <lestapatl -at- hotmail -dot- com> writes:

> I am wondering how many other technical writers have been required to take
> minutes in meetings (as their main function) and what was the level of
> detail that you were expected to produce in your minutes document? At
> corporation where I'm on contract part-time, they expect technical writers
> to attend project meetings, with their only value to produce minutes of
> meetings.

I've done it, and not complained, except when I am supposed to participate
fully in the meeting (such as a doc review) because my input is critical.
Asking a main participant to both add to the meeting and take full notes
isn't a good idea. When I started, I bristled at being a "glorified
stenographer", but I learned a great deal about the product or strategy,
plus going over the minutes and getting them ready for distribution had an
added plus. I could spot inconsistencies or innacuracies that might (OK,
did) adversely impact the project. I became the SME, so to speak. If later
it ever started to degenerate into a he-said-she-said argument, I could
always produce the minutes and my notes, derail the argument and get folks
to decide what was really said. Some of the participants appreciated being
querried on the minutes notes, too, since on some rare occasions they could
cover their butts before it was committed to disk or memory.

> But, I must say that this is the first I've
> encountered this type of corporate environment where the technical writers
> are treated this way . . . as glorified court recorders who should be
> grateful to have the honor.

Well, in this (or any) economy, don't look at it as a lowly task. You'll
only grow more resentful and it will affect your work and the relationships
you're trying to build there.

> In the couple of weeks between meetings where I had to take minutes, my
> (not one of the PM's) gave me an example of someone else's minutes from a
> hour meeting that were 13 pages long!! All filled with blow-by-blow
> of everything that transpired during the meeting.

You don't say what kind of environment you work in. In some industries,
there are legal and regulatory requirements to keep complete, accurate and
detailed notes of all meetings, emails, etc.

> To get through it, with detail like
> I'd seen, meant constant rewinding & repeating because it was a detailed
> JAD, they used acronyms & such, and all talked at once many times during
> meeting.

If it was a true JAD session, the notetaker is supposed to pipe up when he
can't follow what's being said because of cross-talk. And the JAD
facilitator is supposed to keep the session on-track without cross-talk.
You should talk to the JAD facilitator about your concerns/problems and make
him aware of this and how it impacts the JAD session.

You might benefit from a formal JAD training course--I certainly did. And
try being more assertive. Remember, if you're there to record what's going
on, you need to be able to clearly understand what's being said--even
acronyms. Always ask when you don't understand. Don't just record; bring
up inconsistencies if you notice them at the meeting--for example, if
everyone agrees that the project will be done on July 21, better they hear
in the meeting that July 21 is a Sunday than in an email on July 12.

> But I'm to the point where I need to know for my own curiosity, 1) if it
> is normal to expect to be assigned the minute-taking duties for meetings,
> whether incredibly detailed minutes are the norm of the job, and 3) if so,
> some samples if you have any you can share (please send to me off-list).

[1] Yes, except for meetings where your full participation is needed.
[2] Depends on the legal/regulatory nature of what the company is doing,
plus their corporate culture.
[3] I'll look and see if I have any to send.

steve arrants Certified Cruelty Free
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Tech Writers taking minutes: From: Lorrie Staples

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