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How to take better minutes: 5 SMART Tips

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Minutes have an image problem, and we need to fix it.

No one loves their minutes; no one even likes them.

No one likes taking minutes.  The hardest position to fill on any volunteer boards is the secretary.

No one ever does anything with their minutes anyway.

An easy fix would be to get rid of them. Most boards are practically doing this already. Once the minutes are finally approved and signed, they are relegated to an official ‘Minutes Book,’ leather-bound, likely dusty, to rest forever on a shelf somewhere or stuffed in a banker’s box and put in the basement. Electronic minutes get saved in an email inbox or cleverly hidden in a share-drive system.  None of these storage systems are particularly secure or allow anyone to find the minutes easily.

Minutes are mandatory, we must have them. Whether not for profit, condo, or otherwise, the cornerstone of a board-led organization are the minutes.  Minutes provide the evidence that the board met, issues were considered, and decisions made.

Boards invest significant time and effort into their minutes and get very little in return. Other than meeting statutory requirements, what do minutes give us? We place no expectations on our minutes. Don’t blame your minutes; it’s not their fault. It’s our fault. Let’s fix it now!

Solution: Transformation  

As directors, recording secretaries, staff or managers, we fulfill our duty and produce these things called minutes.  We do so even though the legislation that guides our condos and nonprofits provides us with no specific instructions as to the style, format, or contents.

We leave the secretary to struggle every meeting to decide what to include, what not to include, and how to get the job done.  And, finally when signed, sealed, and delivered everyone heaves a sigh of relief, and we move on to the more exciting stuff.

What a waste! After all that work, we abandon our minutes to a lonely existence.

But what if you could inject your minutes with a sense of vitality?  Actively used, referenced, and managed – by all directors, not just the secretary.  Transform your minutes into a living document that tells the story, the important story of an organization; your condo, HOA, cooperative, charity or non-profit.  Having no prescribed standard unleashes possibility and gives the secretary the power to determine the style, format, and contents of their organization’s unique minutes.

The role of the recording secretary becomes vital, exciting, terribly important, creative, and a position in demand.

The first step is to make sure your minutes are SMART. If you’ve wondered how to improve your minutes – you aren’t alone.  Read on to discover how to make your minutes SMART.

What are SMART Minutes?

S is for Sharp

This means to the point, concise, and not too short or too long.  Include who was there, what was discussed, and the decisions made.  Ensure that any formal resolutions or motions are marked as such, and the decision is clear.  Do not make your minutes a word-for-word transcription of the meeting.

Design a format and develop a style that meets requirements, and preserves the corporate memories, without overdoing it.

Be sharp!

M is for Mandatory

Legislation for every kind of board-led organization; condominiums, charities, non-profits, homeowner associations, cooperatives requires minutes to be taken.

Just do it. Get those minutes done and sent for review fast. Why wait for everyone to forget what happened during the meeting.

A is for Accurate

Write an accurate account of what happened during the meeting.  Every member of the board will have a version of the story that reflects their perspective.  It is the role of the secretary to ensure the official record is true, is free of bias, and correctly documents the organization’sstory.  Boards must speak with one voice. After debate and discussion are finished, a unified voice is the result.

When decisions are made, the minutes need to include enough information to explain why a decision was made.  What evidence supports the decision?  Directors are required to make informed decisions in the best interest of the organization.

Be accurate!

R is for Readable

Avoid jargon, acronyms, and any temptation to add editorial or opinion to the text.  Do not try to add an exact transcription of the meeting. Discussions or debates on agenda items are essential but never add verbatim transcriptions. Add a brief summary of the key discussion points.  Identify the presenter of specific reports but do not identify comments or questions

Correct spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Use a font type and size that is pleasant to the eye. It is not necessary to include fancy script fonts [add an example in the blog] or coloured headlines or small text.

Be readable!

T is for Technology

Utilizing technology is the only way to get full value from your minutes and make them SMART.  Accomplishing the first four elements are hard.  Many boards struggle to write minutes that are sharp, manageable, accurate and readable.  So how can I be suggesting an addition to the over-filled plates of directors and secretaries? Read on…..

 

M is for Mandatory

Legislation for every kind of board-led organization; condominiums, charities, non-profits, homeowner associations, cooperatives requires minutes to be taken.

Just do it. Get those minutes done and sent for review fast. Why wait for everyone to forget what happened during the meeting.

A is for Accurate

Write an accurate account of what happened during the meeting.  Every member of the board will have a version of the story that reflects their perspective.  It is the role of the secretary to ensure the official record is true, is free of bias, and correctly documents the organization’sstory.  Boards must speak with one voice. After debate and discussion are finished, a unified voice is the result.

When decisions are made, the minutes need to include enough information to explain why a decision was made.  What evidence supports the decision?  Directors are required to make informed decisions in the best interest of the organization.

Be accurate!

R is for Readable

Avoid jargon, acronyms, and any temptation to add editorial or opinion to the text.  Do not try to add an exact transcription of the meeting. Discussions or debates on agenda items are essential but never add verbatim transcriptions. Add a brief summary of the key discussion points.  Identify the presenter of specific reports but do not identify comments or questions

Correct spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Use a font type and size that is pleasant to the eye. It is not necessary to include fancy script fonts [add an example in the blog] or coloured headlines or small text.

Be readable!

T is for Technology

Utilizing technology is the only way to get full value from your minutes and make them SMART.  Accomplishing the first four elements are hard.  Many boards struggle to write minutes that are sharp, manageable, accurate and readable.  So how can I be suggesting an addition to the over-filled plates of directors and secretaries? Read on…..

Technology;

  • changes flat, static words and sentences on a page into hyperlinks, integrated and connected to other board work processes
  • keeps record evergreen and ensure your story is alive, and unfolding every day, documented meeting by meeting.
  • Allows the curious to leverage their minutes for better planning, or to search as evidence.
  • infuses energy into minutes and transform into an active hub of activity.

Once data are alive and findable, data becomes knowledge and knowledge becomes power. Good power – not bad power – is the power to remember the corporate memory and gain value from its active use.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  George Santayana

Technology such as board management software or board portal software is readily available and affordable.  BoardSpace offers excellent board management software that transforms minutes into much more.

Why SMART minutes? 

SMART minutes:

  • Take less time to create.
  • Have a consistent format and style.
  • Include dynamic features such as drop-down menus with pre-populated names.
  • Integrate with actions, so they never get lost.
  • Link documents with agenda items.
  • Connect to the board’s history.

Love Your Minutes

No more are minutes treated like an opponent to be tackled, late, too short, too long or not done at all.  Everyone wants to be the recording secretary.  You have learned to love your minutes. Your life is easier, simpler, and your board alive and dynamic.

Ask for a demo of BoardSpace so you can see SMART minutes in action.

BoardSpace is a board management software technology founded on passion and guided by good governance.  It is purpose-built to manage the board and its meetings and get things done.

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