Tracking Conversations

by Krishna on June 30, 2010

Steve Rowe has a management tip:

When doing 1:1’s with your team (you are doing these regularly, right?), take notes to keep track of the conversations from week to week. I currently use a 5‑tab notebook with one tab for each direct report. Each person has their own section. Each week when we meet, I take notes on the next page in their section. This makes it really easy to refer back to last week’s notes and follow up on any ongoing issues.

This is good, but I would go a little beyond that. The drawback behind Steve’s idea is that only Steve has the information of what he has to follow up on. Ideally, you would also like the other person to be aware of what would be asked in the next meeting and ensure that they are on track with what they have to do. This way, both sides are on the same page and there is no accidental misunderstanding.

One way to do this is with a task management system or even a Wiki with pages for each person. Everyone can view their tasks and, if allowed, peek at other’s tasks also. There are pros and cons, Wikis allowing more free text, whereas a task-based system can have specific fields that can be used for easier searching.

But you could also have a poor man’s conversation tracking system using just email. Simply have an email that is continuously updated by either party and mailed to the other. You start by listing the action items and mailing it out to the team member. When the team member has a new update on a task (such as completion or unexpected delay), they just add this to the email text and reply back to you (removing the unnecessary email thread text since it is only you two who are emailing each other). When you have a conversation, one party again updates the email text and sends it to the other.

Any method is fine as long as you can do it consistently and easily.


Craig Brown July 11, 2010 at 4:51 am

(Actually, we don't all do one on ones.)

Hi Krishna

It's been over a year since I gave up doing regular one on ones. My team has never been so effective as it is today. Nowadays I measure the team outcomes as a group and only go one on one if someone has some serious performance issues they can't get past with help from their colleagues.

I mention this because too often management practices are put forward as basic and mandatory for success. Management requires that you know your team. It's not paint by numbers.

Krishna July 12, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Any management activity has to be evaluated from time to time to see if it continues to make sense. I guess that applies to one on ones too.

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