On writing Minutes

I have always been amused at how misleading the word ‘[Minutes](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minutes)’ is. After all, good Minutes usually take hours to write, if not days.

The first time I recall writing Minutes was when serving as the Secretary of the Malaysian-Singaporean Students’ Association in Bristol. People on the committee had different views of how the Minutes should be written. Some said it should be verbatim so that we could clearly identify who said what. Others said that the gist should be captured. In the end I think nobody really minded as long as the main points were captured.
In my former life as a new media advocate, the Minutes I took were more technical but not difficult to write as I knew the subject matter well. Moving into my current role, not only am I unfamiliar with half the things discussed (not having been privy to the information before, nor medically trained), the trick is understanding what and how much to say, and how to phrase it.
The other rule of thumb for me, as taught by a [beloved ex-boss](http://vantan.org/archives/2008/01/farewell_speech.php), is to ensure that even someone new to the subject will be able to understand the Minutes. This means demystifying acronyms, referring to technical papers and on a number of occasions so far, sitting with colleagues to understand better how their systems or programmes work. Fortunately they have all been patient with me, as I have also communicated that my purpose is to capture the points in the most accurate and fair way and it would help if I had a deeper understanding of their work.
Based on recent feedback, people prefer to read the essence of what was discussed. This is more difficult as it requires me to understand what is really important and what is less so. I also aim to to cluster common points together while ensuring there is still a flow and a conclusion.
All this reformulating, of course, is time-consuming, bearing in mind that I still have other projects to manage. But it’s also an ideal opportunity to understand the organisation’s work in a deeper context and reinforce the other plans I’m developing. Also, I am a naturally curious person and want to know what’s going on at a macro level, zooming in at times to specific areas.
So all in all, I’m starting to like this new role, and hopefully in time and with more practice, writing Minutes will feel like seconds, not hours or days 🙂