Although there are essential systems to be put in place, people in an organization have to have the right mind set

Culture is an Organisational thing

There is great variation from business to business in how reliable individual mangers are at completing actions which they have ‘picked up’ at meetings. You would think that this is largely an individual thing where some managers perform very well and others poorly, but in fact it is more often an organisational failing. After all the organisation, and particularly its top management set the standards and govern the methodology. Therefore the organisation defines what is acceptable behaviour and what to do about unacceptable behaviour.

Occasionally it is an individual failing, which we will come back to later in this article.

At this point we need to look closer at the most common reasons for not being good at actions…if you like ‘why things don’t get done around here’

I have listed below what I think are root causes, i.e. genuine reasons as opposed to excuses. Apologies to those of you who feel this stuff is very basic. You are correct, it is basic, but it happens, and it’s not a bad idea to go back to basics.  I have also made some suggestions based on how I have seen these issues successfully tacked in the past.

  • Lengthy discussions happen around an issue but it is not clear what actions have been decided
  • OR it is not clear who should be doing the actions
  • OR it is not clear that they were to be done before the next meeting

The best solution to this is Action Logs, or something similar. The action is spelled out in the meeting and written down or keyed in verbatim on the spot, with the responsibility and the timing. The Action Log is issued immediately at the end of the meeting, and will be reviewed and updated at the next meeting. The team leader will check up on progress between meetings. This is quite an easy win.

  • The action is not simple, it is more of an aim or outcome rather than a ‘boiled down’ action. As a result there is scope for failure as the person may not be able to do the action without further planning.

The action should have been to go away and produce a plan of how to achieve the outcome.There needs to be more ‘route mapping’ for more complex items

  • The person did not agree with the action and does not do it, had no intention of doing it although they probably didn’t say so at the meeting.

This is about the decision making culture and honesty in the meetings or the management relationships outside of the meeting. You cannot really expect somebody to implement something which they feel is wrong and will fail, so it needed to be talked through more, depending on the importance of the issue.

  • The action is simple and is agreed, but the person who is asked to do cannot because they lack knowledge, capability or authority.

Be sure to pick the right person, or at least the best person and then support them as needed. This means checking up regularly, during the time the action is being done.

  • The action is realistic and clear and given to the right person but it does not get done. In this case it is much more an individual failure. It may be that the person:-
  • Did not correctly assess the time involved when he/she took on the task
  • Did not allocate time to do it
  • Allowed something else that ‘cropped up’ to push this task out of the diary
  • ??? (not many other reasons left)

In the above cases it is a matter of minimising the incidence by coaching and encouragement. Most organisations do have some good ‘completer/finishers’ and their advice could be sought. If there are no good completer/finishers, I would definitely point the finger at top management. Either they are recruiting/promoting poorly or they are not setting the right standards of performance and are too tolerant of failure.

One final suggestion. If you do have a persistent offender who reports to you and lets the team down by not doing actions, you could (tactfully) agree ‘do-on dates’ instead of ‘do-by dates’. This means that it has to be agreed between the two of you WHEN, i.e. on what date the action is to be done. This means it has been planned in the diary and that you can check up at the time that it is going OK. If it is not, you can deal with the problem on the spot and probably prevent failure.

In summary, although people have a duty to do their actions when asked, it is an organisational issue in the sense that the organisation suffers if the team is poor at doing its actions. Therefore you have to support, cajole, encourage and prompt as much as is reasonable and thereby speed up change and improvement. This is the stuff of good ‘people management’