Got A Minute? The Power Of Meeting Minutes

Always Create Meeting Minutes
Always Create Meeting Minutes

The difference between an effective product manager and an ineffective product manager often comes down to the little things. One big “little thing” is how you deal with meeting minutes. It was years ago when I was up to my neck in standards bodies work for the ATM protocol, a participant who was much wiser than I was took me aside and informed me that whoever had the role of secretary had the most power in the process. When I asked why, he explained that nobody could ever remember what was talked about during the meeting and whatever came out later in the minutes was always treated as fact no matter what was actually said.

This is a powerful truth that has ramifications in the world of IT Product Mangers. In all of the face-to-face meetings and phone conferences that we participate in quickly blur together as we move through the week. All too often folks seem to repeat themselves meeting after meeting going over issues that have already been discussed. This is simply because nobody remembers what was discussed or agreed to in past meetings.

Sometimes meeting minutes are produced; however, they are generally hard to read/use and quickly discarded. Consistency is the key to long term minute success. If you want to be an effective product manager, then you need to grab the meeting minute bull by the horns and become the source of minutes for all of your meetings and calls.

What makes good meeting minutes? The #1 thing that readers are looking for is how they are impacted by the minutes. This means that you should quickly document what the meeting was about and when it was held. Then after that you need to list the actions that came out from the meeting. Each action need to contain three things: what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and when it needs to be completed. Here’s what an action should look like:

1. Action: Investigate why warp engine continues to malfunction during light speed jumps.
Assigned: Hans Solo, Due: 07/04/08

A small important point is that actions should be grouped by who they are assigned to (all of Hans’ actions should be listed one after another). If during a meeting important conclusions were reached, then the should be listed BEFORE the actions. These should look like:

1. Conclusion: It was agreed by all that the Empire should be overthrown as quickly as possible.

This will always be a short list and listing it before the actions means that everyone will look at it before they go searching for actions that have their name assigned to them.

Remember the famous saying: “History is written by the winners.” The same thing can be said about product management minutes and actions!