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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0055| May 28, 2002
7,700 Subscribers


Manage Group Memory
 Maintaining accurate group memory is essential for effective group work.

The Point

I thought as I put this issue together on Memorial Day, what an appropriate time this would be to reflect on the importance of managing and maintaining group memory as a facilitator. 

I also wanted to celebrate the one-year anniversary of this journal which began last May 15th. And of course to commemorate those who have given their all for noble causes around the world and through the ages.

So what constitutes group memory and why is it important to manage and maintain?

Group memory is the ongoing record of the work of a group recorded on flip charts or some other recording media, made visible to all participants, and later transcribed to serve as an ongoing record for the group. This approach differs from individual meetings notes often taken in typical meetings where selective memory and an individual focus miss the benefits of an established "shared" group memory.

What are the benefits to maintaining group memory?

- To provide an ongoing record of meetings.
- To keep the whole team on the same track.
- To encourage equality of participation by recording key data offered by all group members.

What are the risks of not maintaining group memory?

- Groups can become confused, particularly during complex problem-solving work.
- Varying interpretations crop up between members.
- Resolution is difficult or poor solutions are begrudgingly agreed upon.

Facilitators are responsible for managing the accuracy of group memory, whether they do the recording themselves or assign a recorder for this function.


The following are guidelines for recording and managing group memory effectively.

- Before the meeting starts, identify who will be responsible for maintaining group memory. This person should have some basic knowledge of the subject matter. Revolving this task throughout the group can have its benefits. Besides sharing the responsibility, the recorder may receive a fringe benefit of hearing more deeply that they ever have in the past.

- Make sure your meeting location has adequate space to display flipcharts unless you are using a laptop and overhead arrangement to record data. If neither of these is possible, label Post-it notes with agenda topics and stick them to the side of each relevant chart on the easel for quick access to desired data.

- Explain how group memory will be used when the meeting starts--to accurately record member responses. You may even want to include a ground rule such as, "Everything goes up on the flip charts."

- Create a heading at the top of each flip chart that summarizes the agenda item you're working on.

- Number each flip chart before moving on to the next agenda item. Mount each chart on the wall as they are completed, but remove those that aren't necessary for work to be completed to minimize confusion.

- At the end of the meeting, collect the flipcharts and have them transcribed and distributed to all members. Limit embellishments to the transcription process. The group memory is not intended to be an official meeting record but should be used as "working notes."

Adapted from "The Facilitator's FieldBook," Justice and Jamieson.


This week, refine your management of group memory in accordance with the tips in this issue. I'd love to hear you're perspectives on this. Please email them to me.

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Reader Survey 

What tools or methods have you encountered around the maintenance of group memory that we haven't addressed here?

Please send us your input and we'll send the entire collection to everyone who contributes.

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About the Author: 
Steve Davis is a Business and Life Coach facilitating others to reach  their full potential in their business and personal lives. Please email your stories, comments, suggestions, and ideas. Or call me at 800-216-3854. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading! 

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Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on June 4, 2002.   

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