How many times has this happened to you? You attend a meeting where members of a project team have enthusiastically volunteered to complete a variety of assignments. Then, a week later at a follow-up meeting, very few team members completed their assignments while others could not even remember the task they were assigned to complete.

To help you keep track of these details, download our Action Item Log. This form will help managers keep track of tasks and the team members who are responsible for completing them. This form is designed with project managers in mind, but anyone who wants to keep tabs on tasks will benefit from using this simple template.

How it works
The action item form contains a summary of all the action items that come up during the life of the project. Action items typically arise as follow-up work from meetings. However, you may want to include less formal assignments—perhaps a conversation in the hallway resulted in a team member volunteering to complete a task, and you want to make sure that you follow up.

Click on the View Image icon below for an expanded view of this Action Item Log.

One of the biggest benefits of using this log is that it requires you to assign a task and due date to a particular person. At some organizations, these action item logs are e-mailed to everyone at the conclusion of each meeting to serve as a reminder to team members to complete their assigned tasks. At future meetings, the manager might begin the session by updating the status of each action item, an easy way to hold your team accountable.

The log should contain enough information to ensure that each action item is listed, but avoid adding so much detail that scanning the list becomes difficult. To maintain readability, make sure that the information can fit across a single sheet of paper or can be displayed in a single window.

A real-life example
I used this action item log at a weekly meeting I have been attending with five other management peers. We fell into the typical routine where we discussed ideas and assigned tasks, but we were disappointed with our progress when we lost track of those assigned tasks.

The solution was to religiously use an action item log. Every other week, time was allocated at the beginning of the meeting for a status update on action items and to see if the items were completed as scheduled. Closed items were moved to the bottom of the log so that we could focus on the open ones.

Sometimes, the date commitments could not be met. When that happened, the responsible person recommitted to a new end date. If a second deadline was missed, the team questioned whether the action item was really important after all. If not, then the item was deleted from the list.

Using the action item log helped maintain focus on the important work we wanted to accomplish. It also helped build a culture where team members know they will be held accountable for meeting commitments we made to other team members.

An alternative
The action item log is an optional technique used to manage action items and ensure they are completed. An alternative technique is to place the work action items directly into the work plan, along with person assigned and due date. In this scenario, the action item and the person assigned to it can be managed from the work plan without the need to maintain a separate document.
Post a comment about this article or send Tom an e-mail if you’d like him to create a template or form to help you solve your project management dilemma.