Do it Now or Do it Later?


Three Simple Note-Taking Tips
Guaranteed to Make the Most of
Your Meetings

“Tomorrow.  Tomorrow. I love you, Tomorrow.  You’re only a day away.”

So sings Annie in the eponymous movie or Broadway musical.

Aileen Quinn singing Tomorrow in the 1982 movie Annie
“Annie” – 1982

But waiting even a day, or any time, really, may be too much when you are capturing information in a Rapid JAD session or any information-gathering interaction.

And tomorrow is much too far away to start getting value out of any business meeting.

Using just three simple Rapid JAD principles can guarantee greater value–faster–from any information-gathering session.

Who Will Take Notes?

From the beginning of time, note-taking in meetings has a long history of modest improvements at best (OK, the creation of writing was a big step forward) and long-lived deficiencies at worst.

You’ve been in that meeting where the note-taker, or scribe, is drafted as an afterthought.  “Anyone willing to take notes?” goes the plea.


Assuming any notes are taken, here are some glaring problems:

  • Interpreting even your own good meeting notes after the meeting can be challenging
  • Interpreting someone else’s notes can be even harder
  • Basic content and relative importance can be muddled or lost altogether
  • Time for revising or transcribing information is limited, and never as much as you were counting on
  • Memory fades (if I’m remembering correctly!)

There is a remedy: whenever possible, ensure that you are capturing input as fully as possible in real time during the Rapid JAD session.

“Taking Notes” Just Grew Up

No one would think that listening closely and then relying upon memory would be an acceptable substitute for even the most rudimentary note-taking in a JAD session.

Of course we take notes! But not all notes are created equally.

What makes a good note?

  • Accuracy
  • Completeness
  • Consensus

What makes a good note possible?

1. Captured Now

Most would say that note-taking is a real-time event by definition.  Almost always true, yes.  So how can we improve upon what’s going on during a real-time note-taking session?

Capture the note in its final resting place such as a meeting minutes template, a requirements document, a wireframe or process-flow diagram or other artifact.  This can eliminate transcription or copying, and if a note belongs in two or more artifacts, go ahead and put them there now, that is, during the note-taking session.  Why wait?

2. Made Visible to All

Now that we’re capturing information, consider the value of letting others in on it.  By projecting the notes (on a screen in the meeting room or on a networked computer screen for remote participants, or both), all can see the note-taking process.

Yes, it gets suddenly harder to spell while typing in front of others.  Use this as a humorous moment and then get on with the task.

This facilitates an immediate feedback loop: listen, type, view, read, respond.  Beyond demonstrating that you are capturing key information (or not), this transparent process helps ensure that the notes are, in fact, accurate and complete.  And when they are, you will have won consensus (if not unanimity) and the trust of your team.

But wait! There’s more!

3. Revised Quickly

I’ve already mentioned the real-time typo that will be pointed out (and corrected) in real time, but revising quickly has a greater, more liberating quality: it relieves you from the tyranny of having to get it right the first time.

If your first take is not perfect, revise!  Expect it.  Welcome it.

Revising quickly has a second liberating quality: note-taking is really information shaping.

Add. Delete. Revise. Until, by consensus, and to the best knowledge of those participating at the time, the captured information is as accurate and complete as possible.

So don’t wait.  Make capturing information the center of every Rapid JAD session. Whenever possible and practical, display notes on a screen for all to see.  Revise, revise, revise, and confirm notations with participants to ensure accuracy, completeness, and consensus.  Store in an accessible collaboration tool and notify or distribute artifacts to parties according to the project’s communication plan.

When capturing notes in this fashion, you’ve used the Rapid JAD session–and the Rapid JAD principles–to create an artifact accepted by those present and ready for action or wider review, as appropriate.

All of a sudden, doing notes later–today or tomorrow–seems silly.

Sorry, Annie.