If You Didn't Write It Down...

June 30, 2015

Since the day I entered the industry the mantra of “If you didn’t write it down, it didn’t happen” was repeatedly drilled into my daily mode of operation. The margins of my test sheets were filled will notes explaining in great detail why this correction was made or how that data point was derived.

I credit my manager, supervisor, and peers for keeping me honest and diligent with my documentation habits. Over time my career path began to wander further and further into managerial and administrative functions and the scrutiny of my deliverables waned. No longer did I have a peer review my daily notes or a Quality Assurance associate randomly selecting my work product for scrutiny, and thus my habitual note taking began a downhill slide.

Over time I found that I was spending more and more time re-researching decisions I had made or looking through the deleted inbox trying to find that one data point that I needed. Simultaneously my work and life became more complex. At a time when I should have been doubling down on what I was writing down, I instead was putting less effort into documenting what I said, did, or what I was going to do.

Then I became a born-again note-taker. Casting aside the plain legal pad I began carrying hard-bound lab notebooks. Each day is started with a new page and review of items that were documented on a previous day. Items that require follow-up are carried forward to the current day. Every couple of weeks I open up my notebook and reconcile previous entries. When I am satisfied that all the notes and actions items on a particular page have been addressed and all the follow up has been completed the page is lined through and annotated.

If you constantly find yourself trying to recall a project detail, or searching for a critical note scribbled on a scrap of paper, it is time for a change. As our daily activities become more complex, maintaining thorough, easily accessible notes is imperative for success. While the strategy above works well for my personal notes and action items, it is not an appropriate method for capturing project meeting notes that will be distributed to a project team and become part of the overall project documentation.

So, how can you effectively capture notes and action items from your meetings? In this situation ProPharma Group utilizes standard meeting agenda and minute templates.

At the beginning of a project meeting, a note taker is assigned to capture the discussion points, decisions that are made and action items carried forward. The formatting of the actual document is not of primary importance, the content that is captured is what is important to the success of a project. Consider the following items when developing your meeting notes template.

  • Document who was in attendance at the meeting. This will verify that the appropriate decision makers were present to provide input.
  • Start each topic of discussion at a separate heading. For each topic proceed through the following (Example: CMOs Identification Process)
    •  Document what was discussed about the topic (Example: Reviewed surveys obtained from identified CMOs)
    • Document conclusions derived from the discussion (Example: Survey from CMOs 1, 3 and 5 have incomplete information)
    • Identify and document action items with due dates (Example: Rachel to contact CMO 1 and obtain missing information. Due date 01Jul15)

Keep in mind that the preceding items should be considered minimal requirements. Capturing additional information during your meeting can certainly be useful to provide further clarification.

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