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Meeting Notes: Tell Who Is Doing What

The other day I looked at the meeting minutes from a team meeting I had attended. I was reviewing the notes to confirm the action items that had been assigned to me. I knew I had at least one action item, but I wanted to be sure I had not forgotten any others.

I searched the document electronically for my name. Sure enough, assigned to "Lynn" was this action item: "Lynn will work on the job description."  

My name did not appear anywhere else, other than in the list of meeting attendees, so I worked on the job description and nothing else. 

But last night someone reminded me of another task I should have completed for the team. Why didn't I notice that item in the minutes? Why wasn't it flagged when I searched for my name in the document?

I didn't see it and it wasn't flagged because the action item appeared this way: "The question of whether we can afford to make this change will be brought to the finance team."

Guess what? I was the person who was to have taken the question to the finance team. But because the action item used the passive phrase "will be brought" rather than "Lynn will bring," I did not pay attention to it.

In meeting notes and minutes, you must state each action item, who is to complete it, and the deadline or due date. If you don't state actions that way, people who read your minutes may not find the tasks assigned to them–even if they are looking for them, as I was. And they may not remember their deadlines for taking action.

If you want to take better meeting notes and minutes, register for my online self-study course Meeting Notes Made Easy. In the course, you get four note-taking templates–each one with spaces for decisions, key points, and actions items.

What would you add about communicating action items efficiently? Please share your insights.

Syntax Training 

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

5 comments on “Meeting Notes: Tell Who Is Doing What”

  • Lynn – That’s an excellent tip for meeting notes. There is sometimes an assumption that anyone can take notes. I’ve been in groups where “it’s your turn to take the notes”. The truth is not everyone is good at note taking, so passing the task around is not ideal. It’s better to choose someone who has some background in writing and organizing information.

  • Hi, Phil. You are certainly correct that some people are not good at taking notes. If a team wants to take turns, it’s a good idea to be sure everyone has examples of good notes and at least a little training on the task.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  • I am surprised that you refer to meeting minutes only to check for the assigned tasks! I believe that minutes are to be read by every attendee. The correctness of the minutes does not lie with just the recorder.
    Typically when I record the minutes, I inform my team to check for any discrepancies and also add points that I may have missed.
    In your case, had you read the complete minutes, you would have questioned the team as to who owns the task of contacting the Finance team.

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