Merge's Blog

For amazingly productive meetings, switch to “public action minutes”

In our last video blog in our series on productivity tools for leaders, I gave you one idea on how to have useful and productive meetings.  Specifically, to issue an agenda using a four-column format.  Today, I’m continuing on that theme of productive meetings with another tip – always take and issue action minutes within 48 hours.

Always issue action minutes

Now I know what you’re thinking: 48 hours?  Yes I know, some of you are lucky if those minutes arrive the day before the next meeting!  But let’s just talk about this for a moment.  I have yet to meet one person who says to me “Oh Merge, I love taking minutes.”  In fact, almost everyone I know just hates it!  Some of you would much rather walk across hot coals than be volunteered as the minute taker for your next meeting!  We hate taking minutes … BECAUSE for most of us it’s a lot of work and it’s a pain in the neck!  Yet there is a way to get past this.

Are you ready?  This is a cool tool!  A very effective and painless approach to taking minutes is to focus only on recording action items.  Use a three-column format.  Take a sheet of blank paper and draw two vertical lines to create three columns.  Then title the columns as follows:

  1. The action item – whatever it is that needs to get done
  2. The person responsible for the action item – who’s going to do it?
  3. The deadline – by when?

That’s it – very simple!

And then make them public!

This is a very effective way of ensuring that people take action and they are accountable to their performance.  But you can actually take this level of accountability even further.  Use “public minutes”.  Instead of the minute-taker taking minutes on a sheet of paper or on a laptop, take the minutes on a white board or on a flipchart.  Use the same three columns, but do it on a board where everyone at the meeting can see it.  Now the action items are up there with somebody’s name and an associated deadline.  To close the meeting, the chair walks up to the white board and reads out each one of the action items getting agreement for ownership from the named person.  “Okay Mary, you’ll have the revised budget numbers ready by February 28?” and then waits for Mary to answer.

But … one word of caution

Now as excited as I am about only documenting action items in minutes, I must offer one word of caution.  I am aware that in certain organizations and in certain meetings, there is a legal requirement to keep minutes that are more than just action items.  If that is true of you and your meeting, then please disregard the strategy I have just given you.  In this case, you will just have to stick with the old, and sometimes painful, way of issuing minutes.  But if there is any way you can switch to the “action items only” approach to taking minutes, or even better, if there’s a way you can move to public minutes, then do it!  You will find that not only will this result in more productive meetings, but also, you will have no trouble issuing your minutes within 48 hours of the meeting.

As I continue this series of video tips on productivity tools for leaders, I will have another tip on how to hold productive meetings in the next instalment.  Today was strategy #4, and I’ve linked #3 at the beginning of this post.  Here are the links to #1 and #2.

  1. To improve your productivity, write things down!
  2. Here’s how to prioritize your endless to-do list

Or just access this whole series and others in our Video Archives.

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