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Broken Telephone (or broken ears?)

I blogged just this week about some of the perils of communication.

The fact is all too often things do not happen that you expect to happen.

Perhaps you sit in a planning session and determine a set of action items, you reconvene some time later and very little, or even nothing, has been accomplished.

You sit through a conference call where everyone agrees to “get feedback by x date” and nobody comes through.

You have a performance review with an employee and lay out a course of action for them … and they go away and do exactly what they always did!

The issue might (the kind answer) be (a) poor communication (either the speaker or the listener) OR (b) poor note taking from meetings OR (c) a lack of accountability of the part of participants in a decision.  On the other hand (the not so kind answer) the issue might be that the people who are supposed to take action CHOOSE to ignore it, knowing that 9 times out of 10 they will get away with it!

What do you need to do about it?

1. DOCUMENT the action items.

There should be very few meetings that do not result in action items.  Finish EVERY meeting by documenting those action items along with who is responsible.  One trick I use when meeting with subordinates is to have them send me an email documenting the meeting along with action items … I can then edit if needed, but it drives home the point that they know they are “on the hook”.

2. Follow Up!

Set a follow-up time for each action item to ensure adequate progress is being made.  After you have documented the action items go to your calendar, project management software or other productivity tool and make sure you have a reminder to follow up on a specific date and time to make sure the action items actually happen.

This may seem like basic stuff, but my experience would suggest (and I have worked in a lot of organisations … big and small) that the vast majority of action items are not executed as per the plan!  Can you imagine the progress that would be possible if everyone executed on their action items in a timely manner?

The weakness in the company is if we fail to execute.… Kevin Rollins