Documenting brief conversations may seem like unnecessary administrivia, but ask yourself this question; how is a brief conversation – especially one that results in an agreed-upon decision – any different than a meeting? The number of versions about what was decided at a meeting can be calculated by adding the number of attendees + 1. This is why meetings are documented with minutes that include decisions reached and action items assigned. Brief conversations that result in a decision are no different. Document such conversations by writing to the key stakeholder with other stakeholders cc’d. Keep it simple and to the point, as in the example below:
Example: As we discussed, the end date for the current project will be moved from Friday, September 6th to Friday, September 27th to accommodate the additional three weeks required to address agreed-upon changes in scope. Please note that this date change will also impact project Y, which depends on deliverables from our efforts. I have cc’d John on this email to ensure he and his team are informed.
This date change will be reflected in the next project status report, to be delivered this Friday. Please let me know if there are any questions, corrections and additions.
The key components here are:
- Clearly communicating the decision(s) made
- Providing brief details as to why the decision was made
- Including any pertinent details regarding how the decision will be communicated to others, carried out, etc.
- Communicating any impacts to other projects, stakeholders, work, etc., as a result of the decision
Make sure to also set (or re-set) expectations with all stakeholders such that you avoid any unpleasant surprises. Documenting one-off conversations is a simple way to ensure that all stakeholders are provided the information they need in order to do their jobs and to make their teams and the firm successful.
© 2013, Mark E. Calabrese