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For typical meetings, my note-taking is sufficient: Who does what by when, and some bullets about the whys and whats of decisions made. But this isn't cutting it for my O3s. How do you take effective notes when conducting O3s? I'm going to go back and re-listen to [url=http://www.manager-tools.com/2007/07/how-to-take-notes/]the note-taking 'cast[/url], but I'd like to hear your experiences.

By the way, I use [url=http://www.manager-tools.com/docs/Manager-Tools_One_on_One_Basics.pdf]M&M's O3 conducting template[/url] for all my O3s. (Even the ones I've asked my boss to do with me.)

I have a direct report that's not performing well. Technically, she's on a job rotation and will only be with me for two more weeks. Still, I've done O3s with her weekly since she became under my charge and, looking back over my notes, I realize my notes stink. If she were one of my permanent DRs, I would not have nearly enough documented ammo (I have anecdotes, but that counts for naught) to take corrective action.

Thanks,
BJ

tlhausmann's picture

I use composition notebooks. Usually 100-120 pages and are only a few bucks each at Staples or similar office supply stores. One notebook for each direct.

I glued the MT O3 guidelines to the inside covers of each. I take handwritten notes and mark 'To Do' items, 'Accomplishments', Feedback, and coaching activities with symbols in the left margin.

When an To Do item is completed it is checked off. I can determine open items at a glance. For this year's annual reviews I can flip through the pages pretty quickly and note delivered feedback, coaching in progress, and accomplishments.

Yes, it is different than using the forms but it works for me.

HMac's picture

I use a single notebook for everything, including O3's. When it gets full, I start a new one. I keep a copy of the O3 guidelines in a plastic file folder that's always with me (with stuff like that in it).

I tried using the separate O3 forms, but for me, it was an unecessary complication (like keeping a supply of the forms with me, as I do a lot of O3's while I'm not at my desk).

This is not the best solution, because it's hard to draw all of the O3's for one person together. On the other hand, since my notebooks are always chronological, I CAN find everything...So I've given up a bit of the optimal in the name of simplicity...

-Hugh

ctomasi's picture

I use a three ring binder with tabs for each direct. I made a simple form in MS-Word with sections for Personal, Team Member update, Manager Update, and Future/Followup, and Tasks on Goals. The last two seem similar, but I opted to break them out to make goals more visible. Since my O3s are back to back, I organized the tabs in the order of the appointments. I grab the notebook and start on the first tab. By the end of the day I'm at the end of the book. Pretty simple and effective.

I hope to be piloting a tablet PC and OneNote soon. I'll let you know how that goes.

BJ_Marshall's picture

Thank you for your comments.

I think I might want to clarify my intent. I'm more interested in the content of the notes you take rather than the medium in which they're recorded. I find that, in talking with my directs, I get so involved in talking with them that I forget to take notes.

I do notate the status of action items and feedback delivered. I suppose I also keep track of coaching, since that involves action items the DR proposed to take another step towards professional development.

tlhausmann, I really like the idea of symbols in the margin. I re-listened to the note-taking 'cast, and I picked up on using pictures. I do well with symbols, so I'm going to give this a try.

Thanks,
BJ

ctomasi's picture

Symbols are a great way to save time and capture information. Checkboxes are a staple in my notebooks.

Like you, Wmarsha1, I tend to get caught up in the conversation a lot and forget some notes. In that case, make it a point immediately after to capture your thoughts on the meeting. Sometimes those overarching thoughts can be very useful later. "[i]Mark was stressed about his project load. We discussed some options for the next couple weeks. Will follow up next week on passing tasks to his partner whose got a light load.[/i]" Otherwise that could have been a lot of details that really didn't paint a picture when you come back to them.

I just learned that technique from my brother last week when we were discussing a PMO he had to let go. He had great notes to document that one!

trandell's picture

I use the MT form and keep a binder for my one direct (please send me more!). I have some short hand symbols to speed things up, but I can scratch down what I need pretty easily on there. As for remembering to take notes, it's a habit you need to develop.

Also, I tack on 15 minutes of quiet time after my O3 to write down more details around the quick notes. That makes sure I capture all significant issues and gives me some time to create actions on my to-do lists. Sometimes I re-write the form if it gets messy.

pmoriarty's picture

I'm with trandell in approach. Each of my 11 directs has their very own 3-ring binder and I use the MT form. I spent about 30 minutes prepping for all 11 O3's where I write down the things I want to make sure I cover during my 10 minutes. I have 15 minutes blocked between each O3 where I summarize and take care of any new action items.

dbobke's picture

As those of you who know me from the Chicago conference, I am a big advocate of Microsoft OneNote on a Tablet PC. I have a OneNote notebook for O3 meetings with a section (tab) for each direct and another tab for my O3 with my boss. Each new page within a section is that week's meeting notes. They are automagically date and time stamped when I open the page the first time.

I took the MT form for O3 meetings and created a OneNote template so that each section always uses that template as its default. The sections of the form are expandable - if I have lots of notes for the "Personal" section, I just expand the Personal section by dragging it to be larger. Tasks are handled by writing the task and then clicking "Task" on the tool bar. It flags the writing as a task and automatically creates a task in Outlook that I can either keep for myself or assign to the direct or someone else.

If there is another document we are discussing - a Word doc or an Excel spreadsheet for instance - I can copy the file right into the page and have it there for reference at all times. I can open it by tapping on it with the pen or double-clicking with a mouse.

No binders, no notebooks, nothing to carry, and always available - you can't beat it. If you have the ability to obtain a Tablet PC, I highly recommend it and I will be happy to provide the template file to anyone who wants it.

Charlieb's picture

[quote="ctomasi"] "[i]Mark was stressed about his project load. We discussed some options for the next couple weeks. Will follow up next week on passing tasks to his partner whose got a light load.[/i]" [/quote]

Do you keep these type of notes on the O3 form also? I tend to keep these off line on a separate (password protected) .Doc file

Charlie

jhack's picture

I do put such notes onto the form. That doesn't strike me as particularly "secret" and worthy of encryption. Other than health-related issues, I write it all down.

John

lazerus's picture

It's difficult for me to listen carefully AND keep running notes of the conversation. I DO try to capture the biggest issues in my notes like stuff to work on, or performance improvement.

I don't think the O3 is appropriate for disciplinary action. I think if someone on the team discovered (and they would, as THERE ARE NO SECRETS) that notes from O3s were being used to build a case for firing, the O3s would become ineffective for eveyone.

Late stage coaching is a separate meeting, for me. THEY ARE IN TROUBLE! My notes from THESE meetings are very, very detailed. Who said what, dates, times, behaviors only (as always), failure to improve performance after feedback and coaching, and so on.

kens's picture

I understand exactly what you mean about the difficulty in taking notes whilst maintaining a conversation. In my O3's with my manager I found it distracting that he would appear to stop listening whilst he wrote down notes. I was sure my directs would find it equally distracting if I did the same to them.

So when I started doing O3's with my own directs I explained clearly that taking notes was important for both of us so that we could both refer back to earlier conversations to help prepare for appraisals, training programmes etc.

But I also explained to them that I wasnt a shorthand writer and that occasionally I would need to stop the conversation in order to capture important information. Although it might result in a pause in the conversation at least they knew that whilst I wasnt writing they had my undivided attention.

I have to admit to sometimes going the whole 30 mins (or more) with some directs and having very little to refer back to at later O3's. And without those notes a month down the line I have very little recollection of what was said.

So I would rather stop the conversation to capture the jist of what was being discussed than find myself with no notes after a 30 minute O3.

fchalif's picture

Hi All,

Another good thread on the forums! Here is my input.

I take notes this way:

- I use a Mead notebook, which has pages that are perforated for easy removal
- I try to prepare every O3 in advance by adding my items at the bottom
- I make only a few notes during the meeting, as I try to really focus on listening. Listening and paying better attention is hard for me as my mind often wanders to other things I have going on. That is why I really try to take as few notes as possible during the meeting. I do encourage my directs to take their own notes, this gives us both an opportunity to pause.
- After the meeting, I take 5 minutes to note Action Items, Personal issues discussed, feedback given, goal discussions, etc.
- I also try to add\edit Outlook Tasks, but that sometimes occurs during my weekly review
- Every few weeks I empty the notebook and file by Direct Report. At that time I usually review the notes for items I may have Not done that I should have.

I will look into Dbobke's approach with OneNote. Even though do not have a Tablet PC, I think updating One Note offline will improve my accuracy and efficiency with tasks. My hand writing is also atrocious.

HMac's picture

[quote="fchalif"]I take notes this way:

- I use a Mead notebook, which has pages that are perforated for easy removal
- I try to prepare every O3 in advance by adding my items at the bottom
- I make only a few notes during the meeting, as I try to really focus on listening. Listening and paying better attention is hard for me as my mind often wanders to other things I have going on. That is why I really try to take as few notes as possible during the meeting. I do encourage my directs to take their own notes, this gives us both an opportunity to pause.
- After the meeting, I take 5 minutes to note Action Items, Personal issues discussed, feedback given, goal discussions, etc.
- I also try to add\edit Outlook Tasks, but that sometimes occurs during my weekly review
- Every few weeks I empty the notebook and file by Direct Report. At that time I usually review the notes for items I may have Not done that I should have.[/quote]

Frankie: your approach is rock-solid! Thanks for summarizing it here.

-Hugh

mikehansen's picture

There are a lot of good approaches out there; here are some of my techniques.

I have a binder per direct filled with MT’s forms. I add notes throughout the week if I have specifics I want to raise. During the O3 I do take notes, although they are usually bullet point types of notes. Here is what I look to capture:

[list]- Notes of interest about their personal life (I will forget otherwise!)
- Key accomplishments of the individual or their team for the past week. This includes progress towards deliverables.
- For managers, I look for specifics on their directs. “Frank is picking up the new code base quicker then expected, Fred is still struggling. Etc”
- Any todos for them get listed with check boxes so it is easy to follow up next week.
- Any todos for me get circled with a check box. These later get moved to outlook.
- Any feedback I give is noted with a “FB – “ in front of it. Positive and negative.
- Progress on coaching is noted also.[/list:u]
That is about it. I typically have around 6-8 lines on the form for an O3. I do not find the note taking distracting. Instead, I find it helps me focus on what they are saying (you can not take notes if you are only half listening). I also think they appreciate that what they are saying is worthy of being noted.

My .02
-Mike

refbruce's picture

An update to this discussion. About two months ago, I switched to a Tablet PC, with Vista. I use Microsoft OneNote on that, taking notes in "tablet" mode -- meaning that it's a thick notebook between the two of us, rather than a keyboard and typing. I've asked, and the directs who I can count on to give me an unvarnished opinion have said it's equivalent to taking notes on paper. What they like is that with OneNote, if I take down a task of something I need to do, I can tag it and it's in my Outlook tasks -- so they've commented that my follow-through is improved on the little things I agree to do during the O3. The other thing I like is that the computer is with me, and it's very easy for me to add items to my prep list for someone's O3, without having to find the right form for that person. It also means that if I'm travelling and doing an O3 over the phone, I have all of the information I need with me.

So, your mileage may vary, but this seems to be a very effective solution for me.

ctomasi's picture

I'm still considering the tablet for my next PC for just that reason. Some people love them and some hate them. Most whom I've talked to fall in to the latter category, but they don't a) use OneNote, b) don't do weekly O3s so their opinion is weighted accordingly.

AManagerTool's picture

I think I commented on tablets before but...

They make my lap hot! :lol:

cgltf1's picture

I take notes on paper during the O3 meeting, then transfer to Excel for record keeping. I list each meeting below the last so I can quickly see last week;s meeting and any deliverable or notes to follow up on.

 Anyone else using Excel?

shellandflame's picture

I use the MT format for the notes from my O3.  I've got time blocked out on Monday's to review the notes and add anything I want to talk about in the coming meeting.

During the meeting, I will take notes and will have to ask my directs to "hold that thought" while I jot down what was said.  After the meeting, I'll take 5 mintues to review the notes and make sure I capture any deliverables.

I keep all the notes together in a manila file folder binder clipped together, along with anything else that comes out of the O3s.  Sometimes, my directs will bring in emails or timing charts they want to review with me.  Those all get clipped together. 

At the end of every quarter, when we do our quarterly review, I will go over the O3 notes and use them to help the review.  Once the quarter is done, all the note sheets go into a 3 ring bineder that each direct has.  The binder has all their reviews, salary actions, and any other important info.