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How to hold people accountable for Action Items/decisions from meetings?

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Senior Software Engineer [E5] at DoorDasha year ago

Sometimes people forget to follow up on their Action Items from meetings. They sometimes misremember meeting decisions as well. To mitigate this, I usually take detailed meeting notes in Google Docs and tag people on the Action Items they're responsible for. However, we don't always have meeting notes (e.g., for an ad hoc situation). What are some best practices for avoiding misunderstandings?



  • 4
    Profile picture
    a year ago

    A few ideas I have are:

    • Sending a follow up email after the meeting with the action items discussed
    • Agreeing on a timeline for the items (including this in the email)
    • Making sure the items are clear and reasonable in size to get done
    • Following up privately near the deadline if they are not done yet
  • 5
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    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    I like the ideas from @Mistplay. My general approach is that there should be something written down that you can refer back to for any meaningful decision. It could be an email, a 1:1 doc, or even in a code change, but there should be some written trail.

    Depending on how large and/or contentious the change is, I'd also consider making others aware of the decision, e.g. make a post so that the whole team/manager/director is aware of the outcome.

    The other element to keep in mind is consistency in messaging. For example, a week later, send an update email reiterating "Last week we decided X, and here's the update on that".

  • 2
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    Comstock Software, Inc
    a year ago

    When people reply to action items with when they'll be done, don't reply right away. Wait a couple of days, then thank them, ask if they are still on target to meet their original estimated completion date.

  • 1

    Why can’t it be “reply right away to acknowledge if needed” and “follow up a couple of days later about the progress”?

    Something about the “don’t reply right away only to do X later” advice feels very off to me.

    Not sure what the intent behind that is but if the idea is to play (manipulation, political) games — I’d stay away from adopting such tactics because I don’t want to think like that.

    Especially when alternate solutions that are more pleasant are easily available.

  • 2
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    Meta, Robinhood, Baidu
    a year ago

    Use the most common async communication channel (be it email, Slack, Teams, or Workplace) to post the list of action items. Each item needs to include:

    1. The assignee. If there are multiple assignees, you may need to assign an owner (or DRI or whatever your company calls it). You can try multiple assignees first. See if they shift blame to each other when none of them deliver the action item. If they do that you have to assign a single owner.
    2. A well-defined outcome. People should be able to easily judge whether the action item reaches the desired outcome or not. Ideally, people are able to track progress toward the goal as well.
    3. The deadline. If the action item can be tracked as it progresses, a timeline is better than a deadline. Anything that deviates from the timeline before the deadline should be corrected.

    Now the most important part: You need to follow up by reposting this list of action items again and again in a predetermined cadence with updates. Something like this:

    1. Action item one. Assigned to individual A. Finished.
    2. Action item two. Assigned to individual B. Progressing slower than expected. B shared the context of why it's more time-consuming than expected. B proposed this new timeline.
    3. Action item three. Assigned to individual C. C has been unresponsive when inquiring about progress.

    Everybody can see the behavior difference between A, B, and C. They are held accountable in public. Of course, you need to reach out to them in private before posting an update if you are not sure about what's going on with their action item. Give them a chance to update you even if you see no activity. Give them a chance to share the context of what happened and why.

    Do this in the team's public space if it's relevant to the team, even if the action items came out from a 1:1. It's not about whether it came out from a 1:1. It's about how it matters to the team and how to make sure the team gets what it needs to succeed.

    Post it as soon as the meeting finishes. If you are not sure if someone signed up for something in the meeting, ask them. If they are tagged but didn't think they sign up for it, they should speak up as soon as possible or everybody assumes they signed up for it.