Project Manager or Minute Taker, Does it Really Matter?

How much time, care and preparation do we put into board meetings? If we attempted to put a value on the cost of holding and executing a board meeting, the costs would be in the tens of thousands of dollars when you factor in volunteer leader and staff time.  Why does a well-run and well-thought out meeting sometimes fall short when it comes to action? Instead of a minute taker do we need a project manager?

The Value of a Project Manager Role at Meetings

The Project Management Institute defines project management as “… the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently. It’s a strategic competency for organizations, enabling them to tie project results to business goals…” When a board meeting ends, the minutes are drafted, sent for approval and then finalized. This can take upwards of 30 days with no communication around the outcomes and actions of the meeting until final approval. What becomes of the action items during that period of time? How are they integrated into the organization’s overall work plan?

As we move from one meeting to another and work to execute on organizational strategic goals, execution is the difference between success and failure. Why a project manager vs. a minute taker?

  1. Immediacy– before the board meeting ends, the project manager immediately reviews all of the actions of the meeting with the leadership and staff including the resources necessary (if known at that time)
  • Adjustments– any needed adjustments or clarifications to the actions are made immediately before the board meeting ends so time is not wasted in follow-up
  • Operational Work Plan– actions are integrated into the organization’s operational work plan. A work plan is typically created after a strategic planning session has been completed and all actions/metrics for the upcoming year are finalized as a “roadmap” for staff
  • Deployment– within 48 hours of the board meeting, the new actions are deployed to staff for execution with an explanation of the purpose of the action and the context in which it was made. Volunteer actions are also deployed at the same time with the same context including staff actions 
  • Action Management– Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Now that everyone is on the same page around what they are supposed to do, monitoring progress with good oversight is needed. Accountability is the key to success in managing actions
  • Repeat the Cycle– During the next meeting, provide a management report or dashboard detailing all actions in progress, parties responsible and deadlines

The shift from the concept of someone taking minutes at a board meeting to one where a person is actively managing the actions does not have to be immense nor do they have to be a professional project manager. The concept of project management is what is important. Identifying the right person, typically staff if available, is the key to success. Identification is the first step; setting expectations and providing training is essential for success.

A minute taker is a necessary and required role in any board meeting.  Whether you pair a minute taker with a project manager or they are one and the same, the outcome should be a focus on deploying and executing actions efficiently from meeting to meeting.