What makes a good set of minutes?
Minute taking can often be seen as a bureaucratic activity if you’re not aware of what makes a good set of minutes. For many businesses capturing the minutes of a meeting is a necessity. However, the benefit and purpose of a good set of minutes are that they provide an accurate record of decisions and discussions taken place, record actions to take and provide a written record of the meeting that can be relied upon for legal, compliance, governance, and tracking progress. The minutes serve as a record of why and how the company came to decisions and provides a legally recognised document, alongside providing a road map of past, present, and future plans.
What makes a good set of minutes is also ensuring the most appropriate resource/person is allocated the task to create minutes. You will frequently find meetings will have a member who is both required to actively participate and tasked with taking the minutes, however, this can be disruptive to the flow of a meeting as it prevents the minute taker from actively participating in the discussions and giving it their full attention. This can also cause the minutes to be subjective instead of objective and unbiased.
What makes a good set of minutes is knowledge and developed skills which often come from experience and training to fully understand how to capture an accurate, professional, comprehensive set of minutes which summarises the discussions, ensures they are a clear, concise and impartial set of minutes as well as writing them using the correct format, language, and formal business terminology.
Over recent years a lot of focus has been shed on the importance of taking and keeping minutes. If a company is caught up in a court case the minutes are seen as an accurate and reliable account of the senior management decision-making process and procedural activities. If a company lacks the resource with the relevant experience internally within the organisation, a good solution can be hiring a third-party minute-taking company. This type of investment is invaluable as what makes a good set of minutes becomes the business’s true and final account of every key decision made.
Other reasons for ensuring you provide a good set of minutes is as follows:
- Memories are unreliable and therefore, written records that include action items and decisions made are useful references.
- They drive action. Meeting minutes can be used as reminders for tasks and action items that need to be accomplished.
- They serve as metrics. Meeting minutes record goals, strategies, and deadlines for such, which makes it a good tool when measuring progress.
- They help keep track of projects and developments.
- They help solve conflicts if they arise in the future.
- They help provide a reference for the next meeting.
- A good set of minutes with clear action items will set you up for success at your next meeting. Clear action items will let people know what they are tasked with for the next meeting and will hold people accountable. If members forget what their tasks are for the next meeting, they can always consult the previous minutes to see what needs to be accomplished. Showing up to a meeting without having tasks completed, or even acknowledged, can cause the meeting to veer off course before it even begins.
- They filter out the chit-chat. It is human nature for people to digress or talk about everyday topics such as the weather, family, sports, etc. However, to run an efficient meeting, these conversations should be saved for before or after the meeting.
What makes a good set of minutes is the accuracy of the documented details, decisions, and actions, which can offer tremendous protection which can not be argued or challenged. Offering a level of legal reassurance in cases where a conflict transpires, as the minutes will often be relied on to resolve any disputes.
Minutes provide a consistent format and record of every meeting, guaranteeing consistency and continuity each time, and avoiding missed information. Minutes are always impartial, have no bias, ensure all those attendees of the meeting are not distracted from the purpose of the meeting, and provide a historical written record of what was discussed.
To assist the production of a good set of minutes, it is advisable that the chair and attendees make every effort to follow the agenda, speak clearly, acknowledge decisions and clearly, state actions agreed. Minutes are a reflection of the meeting and the clarity of those discussions that took place.