Don’t overlook the importance of meeting documenters. The document produced from a MG RUSH workshop provides the raw data for project deliverables. The meeting becomes a waste of time if meeting notes are not clear and accurate.

During lengthy, critical, and modeling workshops, you should solicit support to help with your documentation. It is important that your documenter knows and agrees to their role, functions, and responsibilities.

Meeting Documenters, meeting documentation

Illustration by Julia Reich from Stone Soup Creative. A graphic recording is one way to document a meeting.

Role of Neutrality for Meeting Documenters

Emphasize to the documenter that they are to remain absolutely neutral—they are part of the methodological team (ie, context) and are never to interfere with the content during or after sessions.

Co-Facilitating Rotation

If or when co-facilitating, consider sharing roles. Pre-assign select steps to facilitate to each leader. When NOT facilitating, the other person serves as the documenter.

Responsibilities for Meeting Documenters

The documenter is responsible for ensuring completeness and accuracy. The documenter is also responsible for:

  • Ensuring the availability of proper tools and equipment.
  • Providing documentation that is properly named, archived, and available for the project team upon completion of the workshop.
  • Reading the documentation back to the group for clarification.
  • Rehearsing the documentation method before the session.
  • Transcribing the documentation with notes, decisions, charts, and matrices from the session.
  • The documenter assists the facilitator by capturing participant input that is written on flip charts or whiteboards. Capture photographs of the printed versions to double-check documenter accuracy.
  • Use the documenter to hang completed flip chart paper on the wall. This helps you to keep the session moving without distractions.  Arrange before the workshop where you expect to hang different sections or deliverables within the agenda.
  • When the group develops a definition or major decision during the session, ensure information is accurately and fully captured.
  • It is important to note that the documenter generally copies what the session leader writes onto flip charts, a front wall, or overheads. The documenter does not interpret the discussion, capture complete transcription, or capture random notes.
  • The documenter does not judge or evaluate what the group decides. If what they are hearing is unclear, the documenter must ask the session leader to ask the group for clarification and not intervene directly.

Documenters

Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

The relationship between you and the documenter is important because the session leader and documenter comprise the methodological team responsible for generating the final deliverable. Optimally, constant communication between you is essential. Keep the following in mind when working with documenter:

Preparing Meeting Documenters

The following steps ensure successful performance of the documentation role. Explain their role and emphasize neutrality.

  • Cover the documenter checklist and ground rules to ensure that the documenter understands and agrees with their role and rules.
  • Assist the documenter(s) in setting up the documentation approach, especially if using a laptop or other automated tool.
  • Describe the agenda and method that you will use during the workshop. Provide the documenter with an annotated agenda.
  • Monitor documenter during the workshop. The documenter must not participate in the content of the workshop other than to obtain clarifying information.

Checklist for Meeting Documenters

Use this checklist with your documenter to prepare and review.

  1. Sit where you can see and hear the session leader and what the session leader is writing on visual aids. Preferably, position yourself on the U-shaped table close to the facilitator.
  2. Have all materials ready before the workshop starts.
  3. Clear your work area from any distractions.
  4. Neat handwriting is necessary if you are handwriting.
  5. Listen to, understand, and be alert for key ideas.
  6. Give speakers and session leader careful attention. Do not change meanings to your own. Document the main ideas; the essence of the discussion as taken from the flip charts or other visuals that the session leader is using. Capture the results from the visuals—not complete transcriptions or word by word minutes of the meeting.
  7. Capture information first—grammar and punctuation later.
  8. Avoid abbreviations, key or cue words. Do not change words or meaning.
  9. Stick to verbatim comments whenever possible.
  10. Accurately and fully capture the ideas, workflows, outputs, and other components of any models or matrices that are built.
  11. Seek clarification and review as soon as possible if unsure. Remember—if not documented, it did not happen!
  12. Control your emotions. If you are reacting to your surroundings or a group member, you cannot listen effectively.
  13. Stay out of the discussion. Stick to your role. Stay neutral!

Meeting Documenters’ Guidelines

Once you have the right tool and the right documenter, use them properly.

  • Always take photographs of handwritten sheets as a back-up.
  • Do not attempt to capture documentation real time with the screen displayed to the participants (eg, using a large screen projector hooked up to the terminal). This distracts the participants from the purpose of the meeting (they become enamored with the tool), it forces a low-light condition (which may put some people to sleep), and any mistake, confusion, or slowness of capture is both visible and out of your control (the documenter is doing it).
  • Capture process flows or screen layouts and shows them to the participants. First, the session leader draws them on a whiteboard, flip chart, or another manual tool. The documenter captures the layout on a prototyping or mockup tool. When possible, project the finished illustration, diagram, or report on a large screen. If not, take a photograph of the original to re-create offline.
  • If you are using a modeling tool (eg, VISIO), have the documenter run the analysis routines during breaks, lunch, or in the evening. Use the results to develop questions for the workshop to ensure completeness before the end of the workshop. Take advantage of the analysis capabilities of the tool, but do not run the analysis with the participants waiting for you to finish.
  • Make certain that adequate backup is provided (both software copies and manual backup to cover the period of time since the last copy was made).  Automated tools sometimes crash or electricity sometimes goes out. Do not be caught losing documentation.

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Meanwhile, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practicing methodology. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools before class concludes. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Therefore Become Part of the Solution While You Improve Your Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology Skills

Take a class or forward this to someone who should. MG RUSH Professional Facilitation curriculum provides an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, and 3.2 CEUs. As a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), our Professional Facilitation, our training fully aligns with IAF Certification Principles. Consequently, our professional curriculum fully prepares alumni for their Certified Professional Facilitator designation.

Furthermore, all of our classes immerse students in the responsibilities and dynamics of effective facilitation and methodology. Because nobody is smarter than everybody, attend an MG RUSH  Professional Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology workshop offered around the world. See MG RUSH  for a current schedule.

Additionally, go to the Facilitation Training Store to access proven in-house resources. There you will discover fully annotated agendas, break timers, and templates. Finally, take a few seconds to buy us a cup of coffee and please SHARE with others.

In conclusion, we dare you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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