Meetings are held to gather input, discuss issues, develop solutions, make decisions, and identify next steps. They facilitate the development of alignment from the attendees on the plan of action, which in turn becomes a commitment to delivering the desired outcomes.
Each meeting generates many action items. To ensure that there are follow-up and follow-through, it is important to do the following.
- Define clear action item
For each action item, describe the task clearly in the proper context. This is particularly important to help the assigned person remember what the task is about. Be specific. Depending on the task, it might be necessary to include the constraints and dependencies where applicable. During the discussion, the meeting leader needs to check that the action item is relevant and would help to move things forward.
- Assign an owner for each action item
The owner for a task is responsible for doing the work and reporting back on progress. Designate a prime person to coordinate the work when it requires a group to collaborate. The pitfalls of not designating a owner include skirting accountability and ending up with work fallen by the wayside. Determine who the action item owners are right in the meeting.The pitfalls of not designating a owner include skirting accountability and ending up with work fallen by the wayside. Click To Tweet
- Assign priority and due date
To get results, it is necessary to identify the priority of the action item. In order to help the team focus, rank the action items captured in the meeting and assign a priority to each one. Based on the priority and effort required, determine the due date for the work. A due date must appear next to each action item.
- Dedicate an individual to follow up
Usually, the person who runs the meeting has the responsibilities to capture the action items, distribute them and do the follow up as well. Avoid leaving things till the next meeting for the progress report. As people are busy, check in with the task owners prior to the next meeting. This helps to maintain momentum for the work. At the same time, help could be offered if there are any issues. In the event that the person who runs the meeting is not available to do the follow up, assign someone else to do it.
- Get commitment to follow through
Assigning someone to own a task is a first step. Ensuring that there is follow-through so that the work will be completed is the second step. This involves having regular conversations with the task owner on progress and providing support if needed. In organizations where people move frequently to different roles or projects, it is essential to keep track who would take on the outstanding work. Otherwise, the action item would be lost.
As action items are key to getting things done and delivering the desired results, these steps are critical to formalize the work identified in a meeting. It is going to take some practice and discipline to get the routine established. However, once they are in place, meetings will become more productive because teams are efficient with how they manage action items and are focused on results.