An action item refers to a specific task that is defined by a clear and concise roadmap detailing how, when, and who needs to accomplish it within the specified time. In simple terms, action items typically consist of the following details pertaining to a particular action, task, or course of action:
Who needs to complete it?
What specific action(s) needs to be taken for this particular task?
How to perform it?
When is the deadline to complete the task?
An essential feature of an action item is that it cannot be vague, abstract, or have other irrelevant tasks added into the mix. Action items are independent tasks, commonly listed in the form of bullet points. These can then be combined to achieve a larger, more complex objective.
Examples of action tasks are as follows:
The most basic example of action items is embedded within the act of writing a to-do list, which may include things such as household chores, walking your dog, and errands to run with specified times and dates. The corporate equivalent of such a to-do list can legitimately be called a list of action items.
Details on meeting minutes with lists of tasks that need to be followed up by certain people within a period of time.
HR Task management tool with assignments for team members and submission dates.
Benefits of Using Action Items
There are various benefits of integrating action items within an organization. They include the following among many others:
Ensure team members are assigned to individual tasks, encouraging them to stay focused on their specific portions of the tasks.
Track employee performance easily by having a record of their assignments, and hold them accountable if required.
All team members have a clear understanding of their job specifications on a day-to-day basis.
Employees take responsibility for managing their time better.
Eliminates any confusion in communication for improved teamwork.
Keeping track of deadlines, which is one of the best ways to boost efficiency within a team or organization.
Prioritize specific tasks for quick solutions.
Generally, a set of actionable items are combined together with the mission to achieve a broader or more comprehensive objective.
A relevant example may include taking meeting minutes during a client meeting. In order to track and follow up on the details of the discussion, client requirements, and deliverables, the project manager will create actionable items for the rest of the team with concise details of who needs to accomplish what and within which date.
Writing an Action Item
An effective, and clearly-defined action item will have the following:
The broader objective of the project must be explained to everyone associated with deliverables. For instance, it could be something like - XYZ client presentation on quarterly revenues.
The project manager must take responsibility to break down specific action tasks required to achieve the broader objective.
Create a list of tasks, with names of team members in charge of completing the task, due dates, and details of how the tasks should be performed.
The key points for the actionable items to be performed must be identified and determined easily.
The status of the task should also be visible to the accountable team members. For example, assigned, scheduled, in progress, need corrections, or submitted.
Finally, make sure that the action items are all organized and sorted according to priority.
Tracking Action Items
Following up is essential to accomplish any given task successfully. It is not unusual for errors, pending issues, or miscommunication to take place when you are working on a broader objective with multiple actionable tasks.
Having a process to follow up with deliverables is an effective way to mitigate missing deadlines and stick to the set timeline. There are many ways to monitor and track everyday tasks and overall performance in business.
A common approach is to follow a daily reporting routine, with time-tracking tools. An example would be having a list of tasks assigned to employees individually on an excel spreadsheet or any other project management tool, with dates of tasks being assigned, details of the tasks, and due dates.
Once a team member is assigned a new task, it will show up on their dedicated dashboard or sheet. If they click on it to begin working on it, the sheet will automatically update it to “work-in-progress” or “currently working on.”
This kind of tracking practice in business is great to keep a smooth workflow between employees, with no gaps in communication, and the line managers have real-time progress reports on their screens too. But in order to ensure such monitoring and real-time tracking is a success, one has to start with a clear, concise, and yet well-defined list of action items.