Thanks for the netcast on taking notes - great information for everyone.

I wanted to point the community to a couple of great resources: My favorite online form generator site has a Cornell Note Generator. It allows you to customize and download a PDF of your form(s) ->

Another site I use quite a bit for my paper/GTD/scribbling needs is DIY Planner at -> You can d/l some great planning and notetaking tools that will really help your effectiveness.

sholden's picture

Great cast!

In addition, during the cast Mike and Mark reference a technology I pointed them to recently as a potential tool for getting 1on1 data into electronic form.

The reference was from Engadget:

And the pen technology is coming from a new company called Livescribe.

A similar device in many ways is the Logitech IO Pen:

I haven't used the current version of the IO pen, but I successfully used a previous version during the course of documenting a technology demonstration where all the evaluators used these pens to collect their impressions.

So there is some promise to this technology area but nothing must have like the iPhone. :roll:


RichRuh's picture

Congrats, Steve. I'm not sure, but I think that is the first time a forum member got mentioned by name in a podcast.

Another company that makes this technology is [url][/url]


drinkcoffee's picture

Rich -- I was thinking the same thing...but then I remembered that Pier Giorgio was mentioned way back in one of the podcasts. And of course, a bunch of us were mentioned in the "Juggling Koan" (does that count?)

mauzenne's picture

Should I take this as a subtle hint that we're not sending enough love in everyone's direction? ;-)

Actually, we've mentioned a number of others ... but I'll let you search the 120+ podcasts to figure out who! :-)

Bill and Rich ... let me see now ... what can we say about you two on air ... hmmmm (this should be fun!)


juliahhavener's picture

I love hearing bits and pieces in the podcasts based on the discussions we have here!

RichRuh's picture


Ha! The most likely chance I'll get a mention in a podcast is Mark using me as an example of "galactically stupid" behavior. 8)

I stand corrected- certainly the Juggling Koan listed a whole bunch of people, and I don't doubt that others have been mentioned as well. It's still the first time that I heard a name and thought "Hey, I know him!"

And for the record... if your podcasts were all the love you ever sent me, I'd still be one very happy person. :)


wendii's picture

So the next podcast will be Mike & Mark reading our names from the memberlist!


sholden's picture


Thanks for the additional pointer. I'll check it out.

I was very surprised to be mentioned in the MT podcast. What a nice honor!

It just proves to me that this community is special, helping, and considerate.


tcomeau's picture

I finally got to listen to the "Taking Notes" podcast.

Please understand that I'm not one of those "young guys" who think it's cool to take their laptop with them and try to hide the fact that they are reading email or surfing the web. Nor am I prone to the "crackberry prayer." I'm comfortably middle-aged, and I've learned to ignore email or other traffic when I need to.

I use my PowerBook for just about all of my information management, including notes. One thing I know I do differently from many of my peers is that I will set up to capture notes when I sit down for a meeting, then close the laptop (which puts it to sleep) for the start of the meeting. I then leave it closed until I hear or see something I want to capture.

While I do use my laptop, I try very hard to be a good meeting participant. I never read email, unless I'm asked to find an email that is germane to the discussion. I don't "surf the web" unless it is to find a document that would be helpful to our discussion. I do, very occasionally, use IM, which I'll discuss below.

When I hear a "who does what by when" it goes on one of my calendars immediately. I take notes sparingly, and try to focus on understanding issues right now, so I can ask questions and make comments when they are helpful.

The comments about tablet PCs were interesting for what they did not mention: Tablet PCs do email and web browsing just fine. I've sat behind tablet PC users in large meetings, and in my experience they don't behave any differently from regular laptop users.

The one case where I regularly use paper is for one-on-ones. I use paper in that case precisely [i]because[/i] it breaks my behavior pattern. I sit with my direct at a round table, with my laptop on my data table behind me, so that I'm focused only on the person I'm talking with. I take notes with a pencil on a cut-down version of the Manager Tools one-on-one template. If the phone rings, I ignore it. Ignoring email, IM, phone and other digital traffic is not the hard part for me.

The one "bad behavior" that I and several of my peers have is that we will use IM to have back-channel conversations in certain meetings with our boss. There are about five of us who have survived a particularly difficult series of events over the past three years, and we are still in something of a bunker mentality, so we tend to coordinate our comments. We had a long lunchtime-with-cocktails conversation with the HR manager over whether this was an ethical way to behave, and we left it unresolved.

All that said, there were several things I found valuable.

It is frankly rude to read your email or surf the web or answer messages on your crackberry when you've been asked to participate in a collaborative exercise like a meeting. People should get ... appropriate feedback about that behavior, whether you're managing up or down.

Like Mark, I don't take copies of PowerPoint slides, but I think for a different reason: I despise the cognitive style that PowerPoint encourages.

The Cornell system looks like an interesting tool, and I can readily add that kind of system to my data capture approach. In fact, I'm tempted to write a little Cocoa app to do the capture so I can rely on Google Desktop to index things for me.

This was another interesting and useful 'cast, rant included, and at some level I'm glad to have found a subject on which we disagree a little.

Thanks, Mike and Mark, for Manager Tools.


drinkcoffee's picture

Hey Rich -- we got a shout-out in the intro to this week's podcast! Mark and Mike -- thanks. You made my day.

- Bill

tcomeau's picture

I thought this was interesting:

Particularly this advice:
"When I would go into a meeting, usually everybody would bring PCs," Handron says. "They're taking notes on their PCs. They're less of a 'let-me-draw-this-on-a-whiteboard' type company."

Harvath agrees: "Make sure you bring your laptop to every meeting because everybody else will have theirs and will be doing e-mails during the meeting. They want you to send information to them in the meeting. Being able to use the technology in emphasizing your point makes sense."

Of course, from my perspective this may be another good reason to avoid Microsoft. :)

Mark's picture

Stupidity is ubiquity.

(Yes, I know it's grammatically incorrect, but it's my quote, and I like the assonance and consonance, and it still makes its point.)


jhack's picture

There are working sessions which are not meetings. If the team is working on a new design, then it makes sense to have the right tools, including a projector, access to design archives, etc.

But that’s not a meeting. That’s production work. Just because you’re working together doesn’t make it a “meeting.”

I do not have a nifty definition of “meeting” that would resolve the gray area here. Any thoughts?

smholland10's picture

Horstman says "Stupidity is ubiquity" kinda like "Common Sense is not as common as you think"

I had a unique problem with note taking that was finally answered in the cast, my notes are my notes - that has always been my view, it was great to hear it in the cast.

Related but indirectly, I had a Manager in my early corporate years that would lock the meeting room door ten minutes after the meeting started - heaven help those who are late and had the temerity to knock on the door to be let in. Fortunately my services background made me always 5 mins early to the meeting and never book or accept back to backs. [Hard to enforce, I book 15 mins either side to ensure this doesn't occur]

Keep up the great work guys, when are you going to come downunder?

ccleveland's picture


I don’t think there should be any gray area. A meeting is a group of people getting together.

There are different goals for meetings: disseminating information, making decisions, and socializing. It sounds like the “working sessions” are primarily focused on making decisions on how to put things together. That doesn’t mean it’s not a meeting. Wouldn’t “working sessions” be more effective if you applied good meeting practices to it?


smholland10's picture

[quote]cleveland says "There are different goals for meetings: disseminating information, making decisions, and socialising."[/quote]

I would never have decisions made in a meeting or socialise something in a meeting, I have found that decision making in a meeting revolves around the most Senior person in the room. Perhaps its the politician in me, I make sure the decision is made before the meeting, while the meeting is the venue for confirmation. I take the same attitude to socialising, do it away from the meeting meetings should have a purpose and an agenda, if a get together doesn't have either it is not a meeting.

As a manager we should be acutely aware of the cost pulling together a group of people to shoot the breeze. If the burn rate for staff in you company is $100 an hour and you get 10 people in the room you are burning $1000 an hour of the company's money so use that money wisely in meetings.

jhack's picture

If we are not to type or use computers in a meeting, and if a meeting is defined as any time people get together, then we may only use computers when we are alone.

This is inefficient and ineffective. Before I explain, let me be quite clear: I agree with M&M that you should not type or use a computer in a meeting.

My team works together to create software: documents, code, budgets and designs, to name a few. This is production work, akin to factory workers bolting together components to create a machine. We’re not merely “making decisions on how to put things together” – we’re actually putting things together! Yes, that means we’re working together, collaboratively. Whether this is a “meeting” or not is a matter of semantics; regardless, this is a distinctly different kind of activity from my staff meetings (where computers are not welcome). And the productivity from collaboration while using the computers is tremendous compared to getting together over pen and paper, breaking up to work individually on the computers until we’re stuck, getting back together, over and over.

It’s not my intent to confuse the issue, but my team members ask, if we use our computers when we work together, why not when we meet together? My answer is, the right tool for the job. I keep coming back to: what makes a meeting a meeting? Working with others is not necessarily a meeting.

ccleveland's picture

Smholland: The goals I listed are not mutually exclusive. Most meetings involve all three goals. Socialization occurs when we get to know one another better…it doesn’t have to be an hour of chit chat. We make thousands of decisions a day. In a meeting, it’s often decisions like: “What’s the next step?” “Who’s taking this action?” “When do we need to have it done?”

John: Perhaps I misunderstood your question. It sounded to me like you were looking for a way to identify when the tools for managing meetings apply. My suggested answer is that what you described was a meeting.

Different kinds of meetings would have different needs. I don’t think M&M said “no computers.” It’s up to you and the team to set the ground rules. Having “no computers” in your staff meeting is great, as appropriate. Using computers for your working sessions is fine to.

That said, I would suggest that you consider applying the meeting tools to your working sessions as well. Specifically, do you have an agenda? … or at least a list of what you expect to get done in a certain time period? If not, it’s very easy to get side-tracked and start doing things people “want” to do instead of what needs to get done.


tcomeau's picture

I had a unique problem with note taking that was finally answered in the cast, my notes are my notes - that has always been my view, it was great to hear it in the cast.

Something to remember, however, that I don't think Mark quite said, but may have implied: Every record you make in the course of business, regardless of your intent for that record, is discoverable.

It doesn't matter if the "record" is scribbling on a Post-It note, it doesn't matter if you assert it is a trade secret. (Though courts are usually pretty good about filing that kind of information under seal and limiting access.) Requirements for retaining records vary a lot, based on your kind of business and whether you're in the process of litigation. You'll need legal help for that.

Yes, your notes are your notes, and you don't need to assume that anybody else needs to read them. However, realize that you may end up having to produce and explain them. So [b]do not[/b] include inappropriate descriptions of other people in your notes, however memorable that makes them.


tcomeau's picture

As a manager we should be acutely aware of the cost pulling together a group of people to shoot the breeze. [/quote]

I agree, that's worth rememerbering.

My fully-loaded cost (and our loads are high, because of the need to support the science staff) is about three cents a second. A meeting of the whole management team is $33 a minute. My informal branch lunches (about once a quarter, exclusive of the cost of beer and pizza) cost almost $1200 for the hour.

The quarterly lunches are the ones most likely to be worth the time. Shooting the breeze can be a very productive activity. It's much more likely that we'll spend ten minutes on an issue in a management meeting, reach no conclusion, and somebody will say "Well, that's three hundred bucks down the drain."

The Mars Rover people have a similar metric. The cost of the first ninety days (the design reference mission) of the rovers on Mars was a million dollars a day. So each day as they decided what to tell the rovers to do, they asked the question "Where will we find a million dollars worth of science?"

Unfortunately, it can be very hard for us to tell if we're doing the right things for science.


jhack's picture

completely separate thoughts...

CC, I've been unclear in my thinking, as I'm trying to figure out what makes a "meeting" and what qualifies as a working session. It's kinda academic, as it's not a problem for me, but I am curious how others distinguish between formal meetings and other forms of working together.

It might be worthwhile to point out that a meeting starting 10 minutes late is wasting X hundreds of dollars, but I would be hesitant to suggest that team bonding during quarterly lunches is time wasted. Reaching no conclusion does not necessarily imply that value wasn't created. It's the high C who sees no value if no conclusion is reached; I'm a high I so if the team is talking about ideas together, it strikes me as valuable even if there is no conclusion.

Ultimately, whether you're doing the right thing for science or business or faith (hi, Dave!), the real measure is whether you're doing the right thing for people.

tcomeau's picture

Followup to the previous note on meeting with Microsoft:

is a note on a New York Times article about New Jersey Governer Corzine's decision to avoid email altogether.

In response to a lawsuit filed by Republicans seeking public disclosure of e-mail messages he exchanged with the state union president who is also a former companion, Mr. Corzine said he had decided simply to stop using e-mail. ...

To avoid any problems, he said, he has decided to rely on a mode of communication that was in vogue well before he was born in 1947. “We’ll go back to the 1920s, and have direct conversations with people,” Mr. Corzine said.


I suspect the best use of email is somewhere in between these extremes.


ccleveland's picture

Tom: Using “burn rate” at that level of detail seems unproductive, even as a motivator. Saying, “That’s three hundred dollars down the drain” is hyperbolic. Even if no decision was reached, you (a) now know where each other stand on the issue and (b) most have more information about the issue than they did before.

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” –T. Edison


tcomeau's picture

[quote="ccleveland"]Using “burn rate” at that level of detail seems unproductive, even as a motivator. Saying, “That’s three hundred dollars down the drain” is hyperbolic. Even if no decision was reached, you (a) now know where each other stand on the issue and (b) most have more information about the issue than they did before.

Oh, I wish.

I think the right level, and the right mindset, is the MER example: What are we going to do today that is going to produce a million dollars worth of science? For Hubble, the stakes are different, because we don't know how long we'll have our six billion dollar observatory, but we want to get as much science as we can.

The "three cents a second" case arose because we kept having the same discussion, over and over, with no new information, and no resolution. Important decisions did not get made because we did not agree on the best path forward, and the senior management was unwilling or unable to resolve the issue.

So I think we agree: Understanding the cost requires understanding of the context. The "million dollars a day" notion is actually very positive, and helped focus the investigation of Mars. The "three cents a second" is more an expression of frustration with our leadership.


Mark's picture


Meeting is not necessarily "a meeting." I don't see anything wrong with coders working together, and using those tools.

I don't even have a problem with someone saying, the purpose of this meeting is to fix this bug, bring your compilers. That's a meeting where you WOULD use and collaborate with computers.

But that's pretty darn rare.

"A meeting" is a set time, set aside, for a predetermined group, to communicate about an issue or issues. "Communicate" could mean one of several things.

Let's not forget that organizations EXIST to allow specialization of labor, but organizations CREATE things that require the integrated results of those specialists. Integrating human results almost always works better - based on today's technologies - with co-location, which is either mostly permanent (thus the OFFICE BUILDING), or transient (a MEETING).


Mark's picture

To tug on a loose bit from this thread:

Meetings also rely on the informational model of exchange, as opposed to the economic model of exchange.

In the economic model, if I have a dollar, and then give you that dollar, now you have one dollar and I have none. No new value is created (because the model only assesses currency).

In the informational model, if I have an idea, and I give it to you, I still know that idea, but now YOU know it too. What's more, I know that you know it, which also counts as value.

Meetings can be judged on either system, but evaluating them on BOTH is the most complete.

So, yes, sure, think about burn rate (though that's making a big concept pretty granular... let's just call it labor)...but also think about ideation and dare I say it, synergy (which is just informational model value expressed as energy).


Mark's picture

Yes, everything IS discoverable.

If they can find it.


madamos's picture

Great cast. This cast has assured me that I am on the right track with my note taking. The biggest area that I need to improve on is taking action immediately after the meeting. Mark and Mike have reinforced why this is so important, so I will be focusing on improving this part of the process immediately.

I have a small notepad that I take with me to every meeting. It is small and fits in my pocket (like a reporter's notepad). I have gotten very skilled at taking good notes on this small area by writing only the important actions and points made during a meeting. For major meetings where I know there will be a lot of notes needed (usually meetings of major interest to me) I bring a regular notepad.

I find it extremnely interesting how many meetings I have attended where I am the only one with a notepad. Other people seem to never take notes. Of course that means I am often asked to write up a meeting summary since I am the only one taking notes in the meeting.


smholland10's picture

My point about the cost of bringing people together for a meeting is about the degree of focus, I have sat in meetings with people (customers and internal) and discussed endlessly critical issues such as $200 expense claims, several meetings to reduce the monthly charge on a widget from $147 to $145 as a result of a benchmarking exercise.

In many of these situations it would have been cheaper and more importantly provided higher customer sat if these meetings were never held.

The $147 to $145 is a great one, as it involved at least 8 people from my org and the same number from the customer for several one hour meetings twice weekly over three months. The debate on this topic consumed 15 mins of every meeting. I did the math and based on charge out rates and the penetration of the widget in the customer, it would have been cheaper to give it away after meeting 3.

A Barrister (don't know the US equivalent) friend of mine, once told me that it is very expensive to prove a point and even more expensive to litigate to prove a point.

Make sure the meeting has a Subject, agenda and Stick to it.

Mark's picture

I agree. We believe the solution to that is tighter agendas that are enforced, and more decision making among managers. Why not just go around the cubes and ask everyone, "Hey, I've got a few decisions to make...what do you think?" Some people are going to give you analysis of a $100 part...give them some feedback. Just because that's the way they do it does NOT mean you should do it their way. You're a manager...balance time and resources and priorities... and


And, there is no equivalent to a barrister in the US. Solicitors and barristers both are just "lawyers". Some would argue that a "trial lawyer" is a barrister, but that's not correct, because we don't have the distinction formally about who can argue before higher courts. It's a question of ability and choice. (and, yes, I know the US has a Solicitor General, and yes, I know that interestingly here he or she is the one that argues for the federal government with the Supreme Court. Makes no sense...but lawyers like it that way.)


Flood's picture

Hi guys - I have to speak out re: your point on "no typing" during meetings.

I do agree that laptops crackberries etc, should not be abused (eg. checking email, surfing the net, etc) during meetings - just as notepads should not be used for doodling.

Before I was given a laptop I was scrambling to write notes (I was not using symbols - but I did use point form and was selective in what I wrote).

I now use a laptop to take notes and it is astronomically better! I am a fast typer, and also being able to view screenshots and data is extremely helpful.

It doesn't matter whether you type or write during a meeting - but whether or not you are engaged with the other people involved (eye contact, etc) - which I think is what was the main point when you stated 'no typing'.

jhack's picture

Is the goal of a meeting to take notes, or to interact effectively with colleagues?

A laptop will make you more efficient in the service of the wrong goal.


Mark's picture

We really meant no typing. Sorry.


arc1's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]Makes no sense...but lawyers like it that way.)[/quote]

Agree. What they need to do is re-label from the top down, something like this:

Chief Executive Officer
Chief Operating Officer
Executive Vice President
Senior Vice President
Vice President
Executive General Manager
Regional General Manager
General Manager
Executive Manager
Senior Sales Manager
Senior Sales Executive
Regional Sales Executive
Senior Executive Assistant
Chief General Amenities Coordinator
Executive Receptionist
Senior Door Security Operations Manager

I probably missed some.