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Organizational Consultation XXII: Empowerment (Part Two)

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An agenda is usually prepared and circulated to all group members at least two to three days before the meeting. A group leader should also review the needs, interests, and resources of people who will be participating in the meeting. What do the participants know? What are their specific interests with reference to the issues that will be addressed? What questions are they likely to ask? What information do they need? What information do I need from them? Do the tasks that this group will confront challenge group members? How? What should members of this group do or be able to do as a result of this meeting?

     Recording Group Actions. In planning for a meeting, it is critical that provision be made for the recording of the group’s actions. Often, minutes are not taken at meetings, or the assignment of secretary is made arbitrarily. Someone who is neither interested nor skilled will be assigned the job. Furthermore, most recording procedures are private. No one knows what the recording secretary has written down; hence corrections are not made until the next meeting, when the minutes are reviewed. The corrections often are too late, actions having already been taken or misunderstandings have already built up. Frequently, the corrections are never made, for minutes are never taken seriously!

This problem can be solved in part by asking a regular secretary to sit in on the meeting and take notes. Unfortunately, most secretaries are not fully conversant with the topics being discussed by the group; hence are unaware of the nuances in statements that are being made and are unprepared to identify priorities. Typically, a secretary who is brought in from outside a group to record minutes will be over-inclusive or under-inclusive. This solution will be satisfactory only if the same secretary is used at each meeting and is kept fully informed of group activities.

Alternatively, the group leader (or task leader, to use Dr. North’s distinction) can record the actions of the group on a flip chart, newsprint pad or overhead projector. By displaying the minutes of the meeting in a public manner, one gains immediate feedback from other group members concerning accuracy of the recording. Wall minutes of this sort are being used with increasing frequency as group leaders realize they can record all major group decisions and statements without having to record all the minutia of the meeting. They also soon realize that by making minutes public at the time they are written, there is little need for a time- consuming review of minutes at the next meeting. There are also less likely to be time-consuming disputes concerning the wording of a motion at some later point in a meeting.

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