Often overlooked, Meeting Report (Minutes) is one of the most relevant documents in Project Management.
We can look at minutes as a complex to-do list with a purpose of keeping track of the flow of the meeting by:
- Listing all the covered topics
- Documenting decisions made during the meeting Establishing who does what
- Transferring the fundamental information to those who did not attend the meeting
- Keeping track of the project progress, making information accessible to those who are joining the project at a later stage and/or are (temporarily) filling in for someone
If you’re still not convinced of the importance of the minutes, read some more on the topic in this article here on the blog.
Maybe the most important reason to take minutes is to keep track of the discussed topics. At the end, each topic should be classified as:
- Closed (or Completed) – the topic doesn’t require any further actions
- Open (Ongoing) – a number of actions are expected
- Standby (or Freeze) – there are still some actions to be done, but we cannot foresee when and if they will take place
For all Open topics, we should always specify the next step and the deadline. All activities should have an accountable person.
Another important role is recording the content of the meeting. If we have no record of the taken decisions, we may end up perpetually discussing the same topics. Even worse, we may end up not understanding why a certain action was taken.
The smaller the project, the simpler the structure of the document should be. For small, simple projects, I suggest having a new meeting report for each meeting.
On the other hand, for complex projects or crisis situations, experience showed it is best to update the same document, meeting after meeting. To go an extra mile, you can even send an update to keep track of the progress on all of the topics.
Finally, you can set out a list of things that need to get done before the next meeting or a milestone, set up the next meeting and determine whose presence is required. By doing so, you will end up having the next meeting draft agenda, allowing the participant to prepare accordingly.
The best approach would be to write the report during the meeting, resolving each topic before passing to the next. At the end of the meeting, you should just recap topics and assigned tasks. This will have everybody on the same page and save time sharing the draft of the minutes after the meeting to make sure everyone agrees on the content.
If other Project Managers are present (customers, suppliers, parallel projects), the Project Manager that has the ownership of the project is responsible for the minutes. They can delegate making the minutes to someone else, it doesn’t have to be the Project Manager. Personally, I always try to do them myself.
The unwritten rule of project management is that Meeting Reports should be distributed within one week of the meeting or 24 hours before the next meeting, whatever comes first.