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Admin Pro Forum

Where are your meeting minutes going, anyway?

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Question: "I've been asked to take meeting minutes for the last two years, but as far as I know, no one has ever even looked at them afterwards. It seems to be just a ceremonial thing, but I'm afraid to point it out. I'm wondering how many admins out there take minutes only to find later that they're not really used for much at all!" - Corinna, Administrative Assistant

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Carol March 14, 2019 at 10:22 am

Usually the purpose for minutes it to provide record of the meetings as outlined in by-laws or other governing documents for businesses and organizations, and in the case of government, as outlined in State and Federal statutes. It provides an historical record as well as reference to make sure issues or actions discussed are followed through, properly tabled for future discussion or action, and “dropped” through proper actions not applicable to the company, organization, or governmental unit and the people that entity serves. They may not be referred to on a regular basis, but minutes are important to the operation and planning and determining what is in the best interest of the clients or community and what has been or is being done.

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Carrie March 8, 2019 at 8:42 am

Surprisingly, I have noticed the minutes are there and used for reference as needed. They are also required as part of a corporation. By taking minutes you a providing for both needs. Just recently, my archived minutes have been utilized to locate and confirm historical dates and times of specific documentation. You may not think these are not looked at, but you might be surprised when they will be needed.

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Ruth C March 8, 2019 at 8:01 am

I take monthly board minutes. While they may not be referred to frequently, they are a legal document that must be maintained for the life of the corporation (and beyond). The corporation I work for began in 1940, and we have all of the minutes from the inception of the corporation.

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Susan D March 7, 2019 at 5:06 pm

A large part of my job is taking minutes for governance committees as well as two Boards of Directors. Some of these meetings span several days, and creating the minutes takes a lot of work – not only in the actual note-taking during the meeting, but then after the meeting in the final assembly of the final product. Happily, I can tell you that the minutes I take are frequently consulted. They are reviewed by key directors who attended and then approved at the very next meeting, and all the action items are then tracked to completion. Tracking the action items ensures that the Boards and governance committees follow-through on their work, and this helps me let the CEO know where things stand. When a question arises as to what was decided about such-and-such three years ago, for example, I know the minutes will provide an accurate record of events. I can imagine how frustrating it must be to think that the minutes you are taking are not used. While they may not be needed now because the events are still fresh in people’s minds, there could be a need to review the minutes a year down the road, when recollection is fuzzier. If you doubt this will ever be the case, then by all means do suggest streamlining or doing away with the process all together. If you are taking minutes for a Board of Directors, however, recording the minutes may be required by the organization’s Bylaws.Good luck – I hope you find a resolution or at least a purpose for your meeting minutes!

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Carol March 7, 2019 at 4:57 pm

I know how you feel! I would attend our Executive Team meeting each week to take notes. We even kept them on a shared drive so that everyone in the meeting had access to them. I was confident that nobody was looking at them because they’d ask a question or suggest a topic for a future meeting that was part of the notes from one of the previous meeting. I spoke with my Executive and she implemented a change where I was only to capture action items. This seemed to work much better for everyone. I also kept a spreadsheet of upcoming agenda items – standing items, special topics, Administrative items. I brought that list to each meeting so we could look ahead and see what was coming up, or identify items that needed to be added.

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Melissa March 7, 2019 at 4:48 pm

the answer depends on the type of meeting you are minuting. You don’t know whether anyone is reading them or not, nor do you know if you may need to reference them 2 or 3 years down the road. I have had many situations where someone comes looking for something that was discussed or decided 3 years ago and we have been able to pull up meeting minutes and confirm the discussion.

Plus taking minutes is good practice, it’s a good skill to have. and these kinds of meetings are good practice for you. Instead of wondering if they are of any use, make them useful for yourself.

Having said that, it would be worthwhile discussing with the meeting chair.

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K Fowler March 7, 2019 at 4:19 pm

I took minutes for a weekly conference call meeting and suspected that no one was reading or using them. To test if anyone would notice, I took the minutes but stopped sending them out. Several weeks went by and nothing happened – no one asked for them, not even my boss. I went to my boss and explained the situation and asked if we could end this practice as it was clearly not useful to the team. He agreed and we stopped the practice. My time was better spent on more productive projects.

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Trisha Heil March 21, 2019 at 4:17 pm

I’m with K. I did the same thing for a monthly management team meeting I was asked to take notes for. Nothing was ever done with them and I knew full well that no one was reading or referring back to them. My boss also agreed that my time was better spent on more important projects. If this is happening to you, try K’s test. If the results come back negative, then have a chat with your boss and let him/her know that your time is valuable and can be better focused elsewhere. Good luck!

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Anna March 7, 2019 at 4:13 pm

It’s a good idea to touch base with the meeting organizers and discuss how your notes are (or are not) adding value. You may find that someone actually is using them after the fact, or you may come to an agreement that your notes are no longer necessary. I pushback on meetings I’m asked to attend, to make sure I am actually adding value and my time is being used appropriately. Sometimes, notes are needed for formal record-keeping (for example, in case of audits), but that should be made clear to you. I think an open and honest discussion can go a long way to addressing your concerns.

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Sylvia Henderson March 7, 2019 at 4:10 pm

I don’t take “minutes” per se but I take notes at meetings directly on the agendas and we all work in a Team Drive. In fact, because we’re all in the Team Drive, everyone puts their own notes in there also so it works really well. sometimes if I get it wrong, someone in the meeting will simply correct it.

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Gail Erickson March 7, 2019 at 4:10 pm

I’ve had the same experience, I can tell by comments at a following meeting that no one read the minutes of the previous one. I have a good relationship with the department and I’ve pointed out, more than once, the answer to their questions were in the minutes, however, their practice of not reading them has not changed. The minutes are, at times, later used to reference certain points either by myself or the department head. So while it’s frustrating to know the work itself isn’t used by the people it’s supposed to benefit I keep taking them and sending them out. I take solace in knowing at least I know what’s going on in the department, and I am better prepared to assist the department head.

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Linda C March 7, 2019 at 4:09 pm

I have the same wonder, Corinna. I use the minutes as reference when there is needed information. As for others, I know some staff will review and keep the minutes for reference, but I think the number is small.

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