26/05/2011 Leave a comment
We’ve all done it – attended a meeting or event and taken notes about the subject discussed; the key points made by presenters; references from the case studies/examples provided; actions we agreed to complete or those we were allocated; and have all no doubt dutifully jotted down the date of the next meeting.
We’re also likely to have taken these notes using our preferred:
Recording method/template e.g. a template for key points, actions and blue-sky thoughts; Mind-mapping http://blog.thinkbuzan.com/tag/tony-buzan; Six Thinking Hats® http://www.debonothinkingsystems.com/tools/6hats.htm; MBTI S and N preferences http://ianwooler.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/teamwork-and-the-importance-of-psychological-type/; or our own doodle/drawing linking and aligning the notes taken. After the meeting some way even have cut-and-pasted their notes into a Wordle http://ianwooler.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/five-knowledge-management-uses-for-a-wordle/
Recording tool e.g. our meeting notes work-book; colour coded paper; the paper/Agenda provided at the meeting; or directly into a laptop (either in or offline).
….and we’ve probably all asked ourselves the question “why?” when:
- we can’t quite recall the context when we re-read our notes
- our notes differ to that of a colleague who also took notes at the meeting
- our notes differ to the recorded minutes of the meeting
- our notes don’t seem to reflect what we think we heard and felt at the time
- we’ve taken too many or too few notes
- we do nothing with the notes.
To ensure that the notes we take at a meeting or event result in a knowledge resource (e.g. a reminder of the meeting; points that are informative and actionable; a resource for reflection, learning and improvement), rather than being a waste of time, requires a little pre-meeting thinking and planning. The following check-list – presented as a set of questions to answer – might help:
Why are you attending the meeting?
I’ve blogged about meetings before http://ianwooler.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/meetings-meetings-meetings/ and there is a tendency for teams and organisations to hold too many of them and to not manage them effectively and efficiently. If you are clear about why you are attending a meeting then the purpose of your note-taking and the format/method and tool selected will also be clear.
What do you hope to achieve at (or from) the meeting?
You might be attending the meeting to make a key point or get a particular view across to others. You might be trying to get agreement about a way forward or take a key decision. Being clear about your objective will help inform the type and style of the notes you need to take, and their level of accuracy.
Are you attending for yourself or on behalf of others?
If you are attending for yourself and the notes taken are intended for your use only, then the format, method/template and tool is very much down to your choice. If you are attending on behalf of a colleague or to represent your team then you will need to ask those concerned in advance of the meeting about the best way to take and share the notes. A team ‘note-taking’ template might be useful here.
What did you learn the last time you took notes?
Taking 5 minutes to pause and reflect and remind yourself of the last time you took meeting notes and what you learnt – not about the meeting itself, but your learning about the process and experience of taking notes – will help inform and improve your note-taking at the next and future meetings.
Image from Trivialities photstream on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/triviality/