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.