How to Assign Meeting Action Items That Get Done

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Effective business meetings are tightly controlled.
Effective business meetings are tightly controlled. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Any meeting or project is more successful if tasks are assigned during the meeting and completed outside of the meeting. By following a simple formula of 3W (What, Who, and When) for meeting actions, the chances of having productive work accomplished outside the meeting time and on-time are increased. Proper action assignment can reduce the problems related to follow-through. Good action assignment will aid in testing good ideas and solutions to problems, as well as implementing any decisions that were made during the meeting.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper or Marker Board
  • Pen or Dry-Erase Markers

Before the close of the meeting, verify any actions that were identified during the meeting and determine if any additional tasks are necessary as well. Start with WHAT the actions are. Ask the group "What are the actions we need to do in order to accomplish great project results?" This helps the group understand what needs to be done and why it is important to the project or team. In wording the action item, be sure to use action verbs and be prepared to provide some detail on what is actually necessary to consider the action correctly completed.

Then move to WHO will do each action by asking the group "Who are the best people to do these actions?" Each action must be given to someone or it will not get done. This Who is a team or project member agreeing to be responsible and accountable for all activities required to carry out the assigned action. The action can be assigned to the best qualified person or a sub-team, or someone in the meeting may volunteer to do the action. If the action is assigned to someone outside the meeting, someone in the meeting should be responsible for explaining the assigned action to the person not in the meeting.

Do the WHEN portion before moving off the actions and on to meeting adjournment. Ask the group "When are these actions due in order for us to finish our projects on-time?" The due date for each action should be an actual calendar date when the action must be completed for the team or project to accomplish their work. This should never be left blank or written as ASAP because the date insures someone is accountable for doing the action on time. By assigning a date, the person taking the action will be able to schedule the new task with their other work and be able to determine if there may be a valid reason why the action may not be completed by the group's desired date before it is too late.

After the meeting, place the 3W actions in the meeting records and distribute to everyone who attended the meeting or who received an action. This documents all actions and who is responsible as well as when actions are due.

Tips & Warnings

  • If there is to be a follow-up meeting, when the reminder is sent out for that meeting include any actions that are due by that date as well as the usual meeting details. This gives those assigned an action the opportunity to complete their action and prepare to status the group at the next meeting.
  • Some of the information in these steps was adapted from the Action chapter of the book "R.A!R.A! A Meeting Wizard's Approach" by Shirley Fine Lee, copyright 2007. RARA is an acronym for the four key components of effective and productive meetings. The components are defined as Roles, Agenda, Records, and Actions.

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