A client of mine was frustrated that nothing was happening after a team meeting. He said, “It’s a great conversation, but then everyone goes back to ‘work,’ and nothing happens!”
Au contraire! Unless you have a process to ensure all know what needs to be done, who is responsible for doing it, and by when, it’s no surprise nothing happens.
How to turn potential ideas into concrete team commitments:
- Record Ideas. Have a flipchart or Google sheet ready to record the idea as it pops up and who identified the task to be done.
- Review Potential Actions. At the end of the meeting, review the “action plan.” Make sure the team thoroughly understands the task assigned and the scope of the work. You may even discover that a task doesn’t need to be done at all!
- Get a Name. Make sure you write down the name of at least one person responsible for completing each task. Look to the person who suggested the idea and check to see if she would be willing to be accountable to the team for ensuring the task is completed. BTW – it doesn’t mean she has to do all the work, but she should be responsible for marshaling the right people and resources to get the job done.
- Ask for Help. Ask the person responsible if they are going to need some help, then quickly identify who will help him. It’s a good practice for those people to touch base right after the meeting to set up a time to get together.
- Set Specific Due Dates. Rather than “next week,” write down February 11. By assigning a specific date, the task becomes much more tangible and can be written on team members’ calendars. If appropriate, put the task on a timeline and show how it affects other team events or tasks.
- Capture in Meeting Minutes. Make sure the action items, persons responsible, and due dates are captured in the meeting minutes. Typically, minutes are sent out within two days of the meeting. This serves as a quick reminder to each team member.
- Follow Up. Make sure you devise a system to follow up on those tasks:
- Some teams like to post a “team task list” in a common area. This list has all the assigned, and not yet completed tasks, persons, and due dates. As a team member completes a task, the team can check or cross it off the list.
- One of the first items on your team’s agenda is a report out of the team’s “task list.” Team members can report completion, progress, or any delays. Celebrate and congratulate completion. Note progress and see if any help is needed. If there is a delay, don’t shoot the messenger! You want to build a work culture that expects assigned tasks to be completed and doesn’t hide the facts. Don’t assign blame. Instead, allow team members to explain what happened and what they are doing to get the task done. Ask what the team can do to ensure the task is done within a reasonable amount of time.
- If it seems like many deadlines are slipping, prioritize your team task list so each team member knows what is vital (it must be done — give it an “A”), important (it should be done — a “B”), and nice to have (it could be done — a “C”) to your team’s work.
Many teams develop ground rules to help each other follow through on tasks. For example, “Offer help without being asked.” “Ask for help — earlier rather than later.” “Complete all tasks assigned within the agreed-upon timeframe.”
As you build a system to support the team’s follow-through on assigned tasks, the team will start to feel responsible to each other for completing the projects each team member takes on.
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