Walk Softly and Carry a Proper Meeting Recap!

You know the drill:

It’s late Friday afternoon and someone tosses an email or instant message your way regarding what you thought was a resolved topic. The standard reaction is to “let me look up that email”, search for notes, or ask a colleague to recall what happened in the meeting. There is a good chance that the requester has an agenda (good or problematic) and is hoping that your recollection of the meeting meets his or her needs.

Difficult architecture issues that you think will go away forever inevitably return. Whether facilitating a meeting with forty participants, or a one on one showdown with a difficult stakeholder, always complete the meeting with clear, concise notes.

Develop meeting recap standards for yourself and your team, including:

  1. Attendees – list who was in attendance
  2. Actions – need one (and only one) named owner
  3. What – If decisions are made, list them clearly, as facts
  4. Option for attendees to correct the recap. This gives the participants a chance to correct or question results, and confirms them
  5. Format – use bold and color for emphasis, bullets, avoid discursive explanations

Properly recapping the meeting leaves participants with a solid understanding of the purpose and results of the meeting. Systems Flow approach is to “reply-all” to the meeting invitees in a simple email. Everyone invited gets a copy, and the invitation contains the original agenda. Its faster to produce than a stand-alone minutes document, leaving you time to finalize the decisions in your formal artifact of choice.

In our experience adopting this standard will result in:

  1. A reputation for your meetings. A good reputation. Standards force you to develop correct facilitation habits in order to meet them.
  2. Facts and evidence – In the short time you recap each meeting you provide a tool. Participants will be forwarding your excellent recaps to others providing visibility to the decisions you drove as facilitator.
  3. Clear documentation. Your clearly formatted notes can be saved as part of the project record.

A parting note: formal artifacts are always the right homes for important information. Next week we’ll address the balancing act between memorializing a project meeting in a recap, and doing the same in a primary project artifact that your stakeholders are (hopefully) most heavily invested in.

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John Driscoll
is a Senior Consultant with Systems Flow, Inc. Over his 12-year career in the Information Technology field, John has consulted for numerous clients as a Technical Consultant for Hewlett-Packard, and also in both financial and other industries in the U.S.and abroad. John has an MBA with an emphasis in Information Technology from Northern Arizona University, and and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Rhode Island.


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