4 ways to get action after a meeting

Posted by Elizabeth Harrin

If, like me, you’ve ever been along to a meeting and then found that there has been no follow up, you’ll know how disappointing that is. Mostly, project management meetings end up with actions – otherwise what’s the point of having the meeting? OK, there are some meetings where you are just sharing knowledge and there was never any intention that people would take away actions, but in the majority of cases, people in the meeting end up taking away tasks to do.

How often do those tasks get followed up? If it is a regular team meeting you’ll have the opportunity to check that the actions were done at the next meeting but if the meeting was convened as a one-off to discuss a particular issue, then you may not have the chance to follow up with everyone in a structured setting. So how do you make sure that everyone does their actions after a meeting? Here are some tips.

1. Record the actions

It sounds simple, but make sure that the minutes include a record of the actions and who is going to do them by when. This act makes the action public and it can encourage the individual to actually complete their own tasks. If you don’t have formal minutes, send out an email to the meeting participants after the event and summarise what the actions were, even if you don’t record any other notes about the meeting.

2. Get them to agree to the actions

Don’t sign people up for actions that they are not prepared to do. Again, it sounds simple, but just because you ask someone to do something doesn’t mean it will happen. The individual also needs to take ownership of the action – and all that has to be is a quick conversation in the meeting: ‘Sara, will you be responsible for that?” “Yes, OK.” Then you can write Sara down as the person who will complete the action.

Equally, don’t give actions to people who aren’t present. Instead, give the action to someone who is there and make it about explaining what needs to be done to the person who isn’t there. For example:

“Chuck to talk to Kumar about the requirements testing plan.”

3. Find a way to follow up

If you aren’t going to carry the actions forward to your next team meeting and review them with the individuals then, you need to find an alternative way to follow up and check that the work was done. Add the actions to a master action list (you can read more about setting up action logs here).

You could also add large, significant project tasks to your Seavus Project Viewer plan, which will make sure that everyone can see the latest version of what is effectively a project task list. Remember to add an owner to either the log or the plan so that you know who will be doing the work.

4. Don’t worry about being perfect

Sometimes people can’t commit to doing an action the way you would want to do it. That’s OK – it’s better to have an action that is attempted than one that never gets started at all. You can always help someone finish it to a high standard or simply lower your standards! Of course, some actions need to be done to agreed quality standards and if that is the case you’ll have to ensure that these are met for the good of the project.

5. Chase!

Don’t be afraid to chase people! Some individuals are better at working on their own initiative and will complete tasks without any prompting from you. Some will need a lot of encouragement and chasing, especially if they have other tasks that are a higher priority. Others will not do anything unless you specifically keep on asking for it. You know your project team members so you’ll know what sort of chasing you will have to do to ensure the work gets done.

Projects won’t move along unless actions are completed so one of the main roles of the project manager is to make sure work is getting done according to the plan and task list and that these are ticked off on the master schedule as complete. Then you can monitor progress overall and ensure that the project is on track to deliver on time and to the required scope. It isn’t rocket science to get people to do the work they promised to do in a meeting but sometimes they will need a bit of chasing or support to finish tasks. Stay close to the task list and your project team members’ workloads so you can make sure no actions slip through the net!

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5 Comments to “4 ways to get action after a meeting”

  • Hi Elizabeth, I enjoyed your articles on action item / issue management. I think your experiences are universal! I’ve got a particular interest in the administrative side of project management and would like to get your thoughts as well. Again well written and concise.

  • Thanks, Sean. Happy to discuss this topic further.

  • Hi Elizabeth, as Sean said the experience you describe there is universal, taking actions after a meeting is a real problem in organisations!
    Actually, I feel so concerned by that problem that I work on a software to solve that! :)

    I totally agree with the process you describe and that’s the way we try to implement it in Advanseez: one of the module, duly named “action”, focuses on allowing teams to define action plans together.

    Concretely, you recommend in step 1 to write down what should be done, that’s what we do too by allowing meeting participants to propose objectives, actions and tasks. As everyone can see them, it’s easy to discuss them which brings us to step 2.

    As people proposed and discussed ideas, they are more engaged and don’t feel forced to sign up for actions and tasks but rather own them. Of course it is possible to bind people to the tasks.

    In step 3 you recommend to follow up on tasks (thus actions and objectives) which is easy to do in Advanseez thanks to an indicator (percentage) on each task that allow members to report their progress. When tasks progress, the action bound to it automatically progress as well and the same for the objective bound to the actions.

    As you say in step 4, things don’t always go the way we would like, so it’s easy to add or discard tasks and actions in the application.

    About step 5… well the tool might alleviate team collaboration and reporting, however it will never replace a good manager!

    You might want to have a look at Advanseez (www.advanseez.com)

    I’d be glad to dig this topic with you
    Thanks for this good article!

  • You are absolutely right about the planning and actions but if you have collaborative software it still makes these steps a whole lot easier. As you know there is a wonderful selection of project management software to choose from. Since we got Dooster.org my team have been consolidating tasks without me having to chase up in the way that seemed inevitable before.

  • Dooster.net rather.

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