Minute taking

Here’s a short and sweet poll:

  1. In your company/organization who takes minutes for your meetings?
  2. If your answer to #1 is the panel’s appointed secretary, assume there isn’t such a position. Now who would or should the responsibility fall upon?
  3. Is that particular person who you’ve chosen normally an active participant in the meeting?

I work as a professional in a mega-corp. The closest thing to what we have like you are talking about are follow-up action points. They are just brief e-mails saying who agreed to do what. We don’t outline whole meetings. Sometimes there is attached peripheral documentation to refer to however like Powerpoint presentations and things.

To the extent minutes are kept of office-wide meetings, it is done by our Administrative Officer - a quasi-managerial position.

But the main reason I’m replying is to offer one of my time-tested secrets for how to score points for any workgroup/team/committee you get assigned to. At the first meeting, if no one else raises the topic, offer to keep the minutes. Bring a laptop to the first meeting with you. Most likely the rest of the group will appreciate your willingness to perform this un-sexy task. (I have NEVER had someone else express a willingness to take minutes.) And you get credit for being such an eager participant, and such a good team player!

Then, during the meeting bang away on your keyboard taking notes for your future minutes. Because you are so busy recording all of the vital proceedings for posterity, unfortunately you won’t be free to fully participate in all of the exciting discussions. You’ll undoubtedly be especially busy at any moment that they are requesting volunteers for specific projects that might require work.

Then, very soon after the meeting, circulate your minutes to the meeting participants. With a little effort, you will have been able to put them in final form during the meeting itself.

This is where it really pays benefits. You have become the first person in the group to contribute a tangible work product to the group. So, when the time comes for the assignment of any further tasks, you can just say, “I’m doing the minutes”, and feel free to sidestep and decline anything else until every other person has submitted some concrete work product.

Oh yeah - if you give a shit about what the group is doing, keeping the minutes is the best way to influence where the group goes, but presenting your spin on what has transpired so far. Emphasize the things you agree with, while conveniently forgetting to mention things you don’t. And of course, play up any arguable contribution of your own.

Then, when the group is done, you will receive full and equal credit with all the other team members for preparing a useless report that will quickly be forgotten. And all you had to do was go into suspended animation for the duration of however many pointless meetings they had.

Or isn’t everyone else’s workplace like this?

When minutes are taken at a meeting I attend, it is usually either the project manager, who basically just sends out action item status, next steps, and ownership of items or it is an administrative person who doesn’t participate in the meeting. The first is typical in a corporate setting, the second is typical in an academic setting.

I work for a software development company, so the meetings we have are usually JADs (joint application development sessions).

A business analyst always takes the minutes, and yes, they are an active participant in the meeting. Our minutes, however, are part of the analysis and are not just a simple transcript of he-said, she-said.

The minutes feed directly into functional and non-functional requirements, or design documentation and are really just the first step in the overall documentation process. When I took minutes, I could easily wind up with 20+ pages of minutes from our day long sessions.

OK, thanks so far for the replies.

I work for a governmental department. Our minutes are official ones that need to go into the record for the public (though I seriously doubt there’s a busting down of the clerk’s office due to an outpouring of public demand for what we produce).

I’ve been tasked to this every other meeting. I’ll suck it up and do it but I’ve objected (internally) to it for two different reasons. One’s egotistical: I don’t believe that I should write them. My experience has always been that a secretary, administrative assistant, or the like write the minutes.
The second’s practical: to have a participant in the meeting write the minutes will make them inherently biased. Besides, the people in the meeting should be paying attention to the meeting. You can’t write and participate at the same time.

I see that the consensus seems to lean towards me being wrong on both counts. I welcome more input though.

No, I think your situation is different. Although you haven’t told us what your role is in these meetings. I think the type of meeting you describe would be somewhat like the academic meetings I mentioned, where faculty participate in the meeting and an admin keeps the minutes. If you are, for example, one of the two lowest-ranking participants in these meetings, resources might necessitate rotating responsibility for the minutes between the two of you. The rotation among all members, or all members not deemed exempt due to their rank, provides some protection against bias. But is your agency really so lean that you don’t have a spare admin somewhere? Or do the powers that be not trust the admins?

I disagree that by taking minutes you are precluding yourself from participating in the meeting. Hell, I’ve lead meetings and taken my own minutes for them at the same time. It’s tough, but it can be done.

Taking minutes is more than just writing things down. You have to actively engage in the meeting in order to really have a good grasp of what’s going on. There is a bit of analysis involved in order to recognize the main points of the meeting, the context, and filter out the back-and-forth from the actual decisions and important points. Then there’s the issue of organizing related concepts and deciding how to present the information in a logical manner. That’s usually a little more than can be expected of a secretary or admin and requires a level of subject matter expertise and familiarity with the subject of the meeting.

Take pride in the fact that you get to do the minutes. You get the power to record for posterity the decisions and discussion of the meeting. That’s a pretty cool thing.