Project Management Training Manual 3.2 - Meeting Preparation and Meeting Minutes

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Objective: In order to effectively and professionally conduct project meetings, the project manager must develop skills in preparing for the project meeting and documenting accurate meeting minutes. Meeting minutes will be the most effective tool in maintaining control of the project, communicating performance, and holding all team members accountable for their contractual responsibilities.

General Guidelines
  1. It is best to think about the meeting minutes as a "legal document", which could well be used in a court of law several years after the actual meeting is held. Issues that are discussed in the meeting need to be clearly described so others who are not familiar with the project will understand the conclusion or direction that is given and who is assigned to follow up. It is difficult to determine which issues may lead to a dispute; therefore, all discussion items should be included in the minutes, even if it is "complete" as a new item.
  2. If a meeting or conference call is held, then the PM needs to develop meeting minutes or meeting notes as a minimum. If there is not any documentation regarding a meeting, then it is as though the meeting did not take place. Meeting notes, which differ from "Meeting Minutes", might simply identify the "action items" or direction that was given and assignments that were made. A "note to file" can also be used if follow up responsibilities are not assigned. This can be as simple as a self-addressed email documenting a phone conversation.
  3. It is important that the PM is honest in reporting what was discussed in the meeting, so it is apparent that he does not favor the architect or the contractor concerning issues that might be controversial. Stick to the facts and make sure that the language that is used in the meeting minutes is not intended to criticize or embarrass. If a member of the team is not performing, it will usually become apparent when the "due date" continues to remain the same week after week after week. In those situations it is best for the project manager to follow up with that individual outside of the meeting and discuss what needs to be done in order to complete the "pending item". It is also recommended that the PM ask the individual if there is anything that PM might do to help resolve the outstanding issue. If the "failure to perform" continues, then the PM will likely need to follow up with person's superior and report the condition, so a change can be made or additional. help can be provided.
  4. Be sensitive to the other team members and what their current "work load" might be relative to the project. Some issues might not be critical, so it is perfectly fine to ask the team member when he or she thinks they will be able to complete the assigned task and then identify the "due date" that they suggest.  If the "due date" is not met, but it is still not a critical item, allow the team member to identify a new date. Make sure that you understand when the item becomes "critical" so you do not allow it to slip past that date; hence, causing a delay in the project.
  5. The PM has significant power or authority over the team where he conducts and creates the meeting minutes and represents the Owner. It is important that the PM never abuses that power or authority. The PM needs to maintain control, but the PM must not communicate to the team members that he considers his role as being more important than their role. A successful project will happen, if all of the team members have respect for each other and everyone is working to complete their assigned responsibilities. If the PM abuses his authority in any way, it will likely cause a lack of trust to develop among the team members and dissention will follow.
  6. It is important that the PM provide strong leadership for the team, where the team members are anxious to perform, because they know that their work is appreciate and they recognize that the PM is leading by example.
  7. Do not hesitate in complimenting team members when they are doing well and responding to their assigned tasks. Team members enjoy "positive" recognition and they are more likely to continue their good performance, if their effort is recognized.
Meeting Preparation
  1. The PM should read through the previous set of Meeting Minutes prior to the project meeting in order to effectively direct the meeting. The PM will then be able to highlight key works and topics to lead the discussion. References to correspondence between meetings can also be made in the margin in order to assure current "ideas" are discussed. An effective meeting will (1) properly address all relative issues (according to the seven major headings), (2) provide clear responsibility regarding follow up or action items, (3) not be a "work session," and (4) will take no longer than it absolutely has to.
Dictating Meeting Minutes
  1. Being able to dictate the meeting minutes is essential. The PM does not have the budgeted time to type the meeting minutes or to write the meeting notes for later typing. Being able to dictate meeting minutes is a skill that will be important for the PM to develop quickly. The following provides direction concerning how to clearly dictate the meeting minutes to the person that is assigned to type the final record set.

         a. Start by stating the project name, such as, "These are meeting minutes for the XYZ Project." This will help the person doing the typing to know that they have the right set of meeting minutes with the dictated tape.

          b. Identify the date that the meeting was held by stating, "The date of the meeting was, September 27, 2007."

          c. Mark on the previous set of meeting minutes with "x" by those who were present. Right the name of any new participants at the bottom of the previous attendee list and put a "x" by their name too. Be sure to add the new participant to the email distribution list. Mark any participants by conference call with an "*".

          d. Typically there are seven major headings that summarize the issues that are discussed in the meeting. Those six items are:

               i. Work completed to date.

              ii. Work planned for the next week. (Assuming that the meetings are held on weekly bases.)

            iii. Schedule Review

             iv. Items from previous meeting minutes

             v. New items for discussion

            vi. Pending changes

            vii. Next Meeting

  1. It is important that the PM dictate the meeting minutes within 24 hours after the meeting was held. It has always been a Project Control trademark to have the meeting minutes in the hands of the team members within about 3 days of the meeting. This will allow the team members to follow up on their assigned tasks and be ready for the next meeting. If the PM is performing his work in a timely fashion, then the other team members will be inclined to perform their assigned tasks in like fashion. The team members should be taking notes in the meeting concerning their assigned tasks, so they should not be waiting for the minutes to be distributed before they do anything with their assignments. Having said that, it is still essential that the PM set the example by being diligent with his assigned tasks. Being able to distribute the meeting minutes quickly will set the tone regarding the expectations for all of the team members.
Work completed to date:
  1. The contractor will report on the progress that has been made in the work items since the last project meeting. Allow the contractor to state the percentage complete for each work item. The PM should plan to walk the project site before each meeting, so he can confirm that the contractor is correct in his assessment of the progress. It is best for the PM to simply mark the previous set of meeting minutes with the revised percentages and then simply dictate the following comment, "The work completed to date should be in accordance with the revised percentages that are noted on the attached." Also give instructions to move the items that were described under the heading "Work planned for next week" and move them to "Work completed to date." Change the wording as needed so that it reads correctly for the new heading, but most of the descriptions under "Work completed to date" will likely remain the same as the previous week. Doing it this way will prevent the PM from having to read all of the descriptions again, where the only thing that has changed is the % complete. Occasionally, specific follow up or discussion takes place during the Work Completed to Date section; therefore, the PM needs to understand when this discussion justifies a New Item for Discussion or can be tracked under Work Completed to Date.
Work planned for the next week:
  1. The contractor will also report on the work that is planned for the next week. Both the work completed and the work planned should correspond closely to the published schedule. If there is a significant difference, then the PM needs to have the contractor update the schedule so it reflects how the work is planned to be completed. Again mark the old set of meeting minutes with the % complete for these items and then dictate the appropriate wording for the item when it moves up under the "Work completed to date" category of the meeting minutes.
Schedule Review
  1. It is necessary to have the contractor's schedule (or the PM's Master Schedule) available to look at, so a judgment can be made regarding whether the contractor is performing the work according to the planned schedule. It is helpful to draw a line on the schedule that corresponds to the day of the meeting and then note the % complete of each activity that falls on that line, where the PM can develop a feel concerning where the contractor is with the work. It is felt that the contractor is behind the published schedule, then the PM needs to state and document his opinion. For example, the contractor is behind the published schedule, then the PM needs to state and document his opinion. For example, the contractor might acknowledge that certain "critical path" work items are trailing the published schedule by a couple of days, but he still feels like he will be able to make up the lost time before the next meeting. Go ahead and state that the contractor is behind 2 days, but feels that he will be able to make up the "lost time" before the next meeting. The PM can tell the contractor that there is nothing the PM would like more than to report that the contractor has made up the lost time at the next meeting. If the contractor is still behind the published schedule at the next meeting, then call it like it is, where the contractor was unable to make up the 2 days that were discussed in the last meeting. Continue to report the "delay" and the associated cause for the delay, until the contractor has either (a) made up the time or (b) has developed a new plan for completing the work and has issued an updated schedule. Do not allow the contractor to simply state that he will "make up the lost time" without being able to show how he is going to make up the time.
  2. Sometimes the Owner might be the cause for a schedule delay, where the contractor might ask for additional time to complete the project. If the PM feels that the delay is justified, then it should be documented as such in the meeting minutes, where the contractor is granted the delay with the next change order. Occasionally the contractor will ask for an extension of time, but will not ask for additional compensation for General Conditions. The PM needs to make sure that the cost issues are cleared up at the time the "justifiable delay" occurs, so the contractor is not allowed to tally up the cost for the delays at the end of the project. The PM should read and understand what the Owner-Contractor Agreement allows regarding project delays.
  3. Pay close attention to "critical path" items, since those are the areas that will cause a project completion date to be delayed. Be proactive in trying to identify those work items, which could be problematic, especially the "owner provided" items. A major part of the PM's responsibility is to help the Owner understand his contracted responsibilities so the Owner is not the cause for a delay.
  4. Often times it is effective to identify a "tickler list" of Owner provided equipment items that are critical to the schedule. It is likely that all of the equipment will be critical to the Owner being able to open the facility, but some of the equipment will be more critical than others since it will require utility rough-ins and/or coordination with the contractor and architect. For a hospital, some of those equipment items will include:

          a. Radiology equipment

          b. Surgical lights

         c. Information Systems

          d. Laboratory millwork, whether it is fixed or laboratory systems furniture.

          e. Headwall systems in the patient rooms

  1. Owner provided consultants would also have a significant effect on the schedule. If the Owner is contracted separately for Interior Design services, then color boards need to be developed and approved by the Owner early in the project, since most of the submittals that relate to interiors will not be able to be approved until the color has been selected by the Interior Designer and approved by the Owner.
  2. The PM needs to be aware of all of the items noted above and address any of the above in the meeting minutes, so they are not forgotten.
Follow up to items noted in previous meeting minutes:
  1. Typically the PM will read the first sentence of the specific item from the previous meeting minutes, which will often start with the phrase, "Status of follow up regarding..." This will allow the PM to identify the issue for discussion, where the person responsible for follow up can provide an update regarding the status of that issue. The PM should make abbreviated notes in the margins of the meeting notes, which will be used as source information for later when he dictates the meeting minutes. The PM should not try and write down everything, but simply note key words that will. help to jog his memory concerning that which was discussed.
  2. The following is a list of items that should be included in each set of meeting minutes. This also services as an agenda for the Construction Kick-off Meeting:

           a. Any follow up or action items from the pre-award meeting(s)

           b. Construction Procedures Manual

           c. Submittals

           d. RFI's / ASI's

           e. Engineer's Site Visits

           f. Payment Applications

           g. Test Results

           h. As-Built Documentation

  1. One of the first items that is discussed under "Follow up items" is submittals. Submittal items are often a cause for a contractor being delayed. It is not enough to simply rely upon the contractor to provide the submittal information in a timely manner and for the architect to review the submittal quickly and return it to the contractor. It is well to review the submittal list (provided by the contractor) and list in the meeting minutes any submittals that could cause a delay in the project and to identify where the submittal is in the process and who is responsible for it at each stage. Some of the items that will often drive a construction schedule, because of the long lead ordering time or winter conditions, will include the following:

          a. elevators

           b. Pneumatic tube systems

           c. Electrical switchgear

           d. Air Handling Units

           e. Millwork

           f. Accordion doors

           g. Door frames

           h. Building Enclosure (for winter conditions), which would include, roofing systems, windows and exterior skin systems.

           i. Asphalt paving for parking areas (winter conditions), where asphalt plants will close once it becomes too cold to place asphalt.

           j. Structural Steel

  1. The second item that should be discussed under "follow up items" is RFI's (Request for Information). Again RFI's will often have an effect on the construction schedule, if the design team is not responding to the RFI's in a timely fashion. Language such as the following can be used to introduce the RFI section of the meeting minutes, "Status of follow up regarding RFI's which remain outstanding.  It was reported that the contractor has issued up to RFI #21. The following identifies RFI's, which remain outstanding and will require a response from the design team."  The PM will then record the outstanding RFI's by number and description, where the design team will identify a date when the RFI will be answered.
  2. The PM should be sure and identify who is assigned to follow up, where the name of that individual will be marked in bold letters in the body of the meeting minutes. That persons name will also show up in the column marked "Action By".  Confirm what the "due date" will be with the person responsible for follow up and note that date in the column marked "due date". For example, if the architect is responsible to provide direction to the contractor, the architect should be asked when he can have that response prepared. The PM should then confirm with the contractor that the schedule will not be impacted if the direction is received on the date suggested by the architect. Dictate who is responsible and the due date, so the person who is typing the meeting minutes does not have to go back to the meeting minutes for that information.
  3. Make sure that when dictating meeting minutes that you read the previous minutes and bring the language and information current. Occasionally it may be appropriate to leave the item the same; however, this should only be the case when the item seems to not have a legal implication. Therefore, the item should also have some updating.
  4. Try as much as possible to dictate concise sentences that give clear direction to who is doing what and when.
  5. The dictator should indicate that the "previous" New Items for Discussion are now Follow Up Items.

New Items for Discussion:

  1. Once all of the "previous items" have been discussed, the PM will go around the table and ask the team members if they have any new items that need to be discussed. The PM will make note of those "new items for discussion" on the back of the old set of meeting minutes. Again the PM will need to abbreviate his notes just enough to give him the salient information that can be dictated later. Again assignments need to be made regarding who will be responsible for follow and a "due date" will also be noted. Try and obtain the time required to resolve the issue from the person responsible for follow up, so there is "buy in" regarding the time required and it is not the PM that is having to dictate what will be done and when it will be completed.
  2. Sometimes there will be "new items" that are brought during other stages of the meeting, like during "follow up to items noted in previous meeting minutes". The PM will need to judge whether that item should be discussed then or if it should be differed for later in the meeting. If it does not take long to discuss and it seems appropriate, then turn the old set of minutes over and make note of the item where it will be recorded in the "new items for discussion" notes.
  3. Sometimes new items will be brought up after the meeting during a job-walk or on a phone conversation. If the meeting minutes have not been dictated yet and it is still possibly to give current information in the minutes then dictate something to the effect that says: Outside or following the project meeting...
  4. The following is a sample list of New Items for Discussion:
  • Master Plan
  • 30' raw for west ditch
  • jogging trail along canal (1) = future (2) bury canal = future
  • ? drop-off not included - agreed to not include
  • Fire Flow evaluation / utility his not available
  • GB - (incl. fire marshal and/or Craig Blue to coord w/LAHJ
  • (? fire sprinkler - performance spec)
  • Brenda = surveyor to extend survey to west to show take to design acceleration lane
Pending Changes
  1. The PM will write the changes and additions in the chart that is included in the previous meeting notes. Direction can be given to the person who types the meeting minutes by saying, "Pending Changes should be in accordance with the attached." Be sure and clearly write the description so it is easy to read. Add new pending changes at the bottom of the list or dictate the pending changes from the Architect issued "Proposal Request" or the contractor issued "Change Order Request".
  2. The Pending Changes section of the minutes is documentation regarding the status of the change management document. All changes need to be approved by the owner prior to executing a formal Change Order. The following are typical notes in the "Status" column that document this process: (a) Cost (or Credit) to Follow, (b) A/E to Review, (c) A/E Approved, and (d) CO to Follow.
Next Project Meeting
  1. Close the meeting minutes by dictating the date and time when the next project meeting will be held.

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