Meeting notes for your agile and scrum meetings? Here's why they are important and some options to implement

My question for the agile scrum masters, coaches, and team leads today is whether or not you are documenting meeting notes after planning sessions, standups, and other common scrum meetings?

You might be tempted to do away with meeting notes as a relic of the past. In fact, if you have a small collocated team that has a long tenure working together, then I agree that it might be overkill to document notes when everyone on the team is easily accessible.


Even for geographically dispersed teams, some might suggest using Slack or similar collaboration tool is a reasonable substitute for meeting notes. These tools are a reasonable option if the history of discussions and decisions at meetings have limited long term value.


Why meeting notes are important in agile


Most teams fall outside the simple scenarios. They are more likely to be geographically dispersed and working with many other agile teams in parallel. On any given day, a team member may not be able to make a standup or a more strategic meeting. Team members may be reassigned to new teams, and new people from outside the organization may join a team mid-initiative or mid-release. So one reason to keep meeting notes is to keep people informed given these likely real-world scenarios.

A second reason is to document decisions and especially technology implementations ones. I find that teams are more likely to arrive at technology decisions and less likely to revisit them when there is a formal discipline in place to schedule these discussions, document what was reviewed, itemize decisions, and record any required follow ups. Aka, meeting notes.

The last reason to capture meeting notes is that it drives accountability without micromanaging. When team members see their names listed in a standups meeting notes or in the details around a technology decision, they are more likely to follow through to getting next steps 'done' and raising blocks or issues.

What notes should be captured?


If you equate "meeting notes" with capturing formalized "meeting minutes" then you might be missing my point. I'm not trying to document everything that happened in the meeting which would be cumbersome to capture and difficult to leverage. Here are some things that  I do look to capture:


  • Who attended, who was invited that missed the meeting, and others that might be interested in reviewing the meeting outcomes.
  • Key decisions that were made at the meeting
  • Any blocks or follow ups that are required

These three elements drive collaboration and productivity. You might want to capture additional details for other meeting types. For example, at standups I often like capturing work in progress especially if team member attendance at standups is inconsistent.

The elusive tool and process for capturing and sharing meeting notes


I have to confess that I haven't found an ideal tool for capturing meeting notes. Many StarCIO clients are using Jira as their agile tool, so I've been searching for a methodology that integrates well with the day to day, sprint to sprint, and release to release processes that are managed through Jira. Here are some options I've tried 

  • Document in Jira in a "meeting" issue type - This has the advantage of being integrated into Jira and  can be found with searches that combine project, meeting issue type, and labels for different types of meetings. You can reference other Jira Issues in the description or use Linked Issues to formally tag them. But you'll have to customize the fields for the meeting issue type to get a standard structure in place. Also, this approach makes it a little bit more cumbersome to browse the meeting notes such as looking for the notes on the more recent standup meetings. One solution if your team also uses Confluence, is to use macros to pull in these meeting issues onto one or more Confluence pages. Finally, there's is an Alignment Meeting Board plugin that takes a similar approach, but this plugin is currently not available on Jira cloud.
  • Document as Jira comments - Rather than creating a separate meeting issue type, another option is to record meeting notes in the context of Jira Issues by adding comments. This seems simple at first, but Jira doesn't make it easy to find and extract specific comments (show me all comments for a project that are meeting notes). It also isn't easy to enter meeting notes this way as you first have to find (or create) the issue where the note needs to be recorded. 
  • Record meeting notes directly on Confluence pages - This is a brute force method. It allows referencing Jira Issue types and people on the team. The page makes notes easy to enter and browse. But it doesn't give you easy search capabilities or ways to archive meeting notes that are old or no longer relevant.
  • Use a separate meeting notes capture tool - A final option is to use another tool that can be designed from the ground up to support the data capture and search required. I've used Quickbase to do this in the past as the tool makes it straightforward to create a custom form to capture and search meeting notes. But you'll have to work a little harder to create an integrated experience between this dedicated tool (Quickbase or other) and your agile tool (Jira or other).
If you have a better suggestion, let me know. 

Some cumbersome mechanics aside, I still believe most teams should be creating meeting notes for their key scrum meetings.


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