Getting Action on Action Items

Blank-4Do you have the persistent problem of team members not taking action on action items?

You are not the lone ranger. One of the most frequently reported meeting problems is the lack of results, assignments, and follow-up.

The inaction can be a threat to delivering projects on schedule.  What can we do to mitigate this risk and improve our chance for success?

Let’s look at why people fail to complete action items and how to get action.

Why People Fail to Complete Action Items

Have you had the experience of discussing items in project meetings over and over but no one does anything about it? You may feel as you are running in circles. Your project may resemble Abbott and Costello’s comedy act “Who’s on First”.

There are numerous reasons for inaction:

  • Lack of clarity on what to do, who is responsible, and when the action is due
  • Lack of time
  • Lack of agreement on priorities (particularly between PMs and the team member’s manager)
  • Lack of accountability
  • Lack of a process and system to track action items
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of knowledge and skills
  • Lack of visibility

“I never worry about action, but only about inaction.” –Winston Churchill

How to Get Action

Project managers must delegate tasks and ensure their completion. Here are some tips on getting action:

  • Document the action items. Make the action items visible and easily accessible at all times.
  • Validate action items. At the end of your meetings, review and validate the action items to ensure clarity on: 1) the required action, 2) the due date, and 3) who will complete the action.
  • Assign one person responsible. Assigning two or more people to an action item creates ambiguity. Pick one primary person.
  • Never change the original Due Date. If you must revise the due date, record the new date separately as the “Revised Due Date”.
  • Ask team members to update action items prior to meetings. Don’t waist precious meeting time updating action items if they can be updated prior to the meeting.
  • Review action items frequently. Respectfully but consistently, review action items until they are closed.
  • Clarify the priorities of the action items. Understanding the priorities becomes more important as the number of action items increases. Keep an eye on the action items related to your critical path tasks.
  • Escalate action items to higher levels of management. Determine early in the project the escalation criteria. When should items be escalated?
  • Help team members see the action as an opportunity for personal growth. Good leaders match the actions with the right resources. Good leaders also look for opportunities to develop team members.
  • Manage by walking around. Stop by and visit team members. See if they have what they need to complete their tasks and action items.

Question: What impedes your team member’s ability to complete action items? How have you overcome these obstacles?

Related Post: 

How to Master Minutes and Propel Projects



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2 thoughts on “Getting Action on Action Items

  1. Nice post. Summarizes the main issues very well. Like the blog so much I wanted to subscribe to it, but couldn’t find an RSS link.

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