The Most Efficient Way to Handle Your Action Items
An action item is a definition of a target or an objective that is planned to be executed.
From a project management viewpoint, action items are the tasks into which a project has been broken into for delivery. They’re the sum of actions that need to be taken to move a project from to-do to done.
Action items form the foundation of project management success since they:
- define what it takes to achieve a target or deliver a project,
- make it easy to track progress on a project, and,
- make up the steps that get a project delivered.
In essence, action items offer a simple framework for defining and managing project progress. In this article, we’ll be looking at action items in depth—what they are, how they work, and how to leverage them for project management success.
Major action item data points and how they influence project progress
An action item is, essentially, the sum of its parts. These tiny details offer the team and relevant project stakeholders insights into the what, why, and how of the action item. They also offer an easy-to-follow framework for tracking task progress so the team can deliver each task, and eventually, the entire project on time and under budget.
Below is a list of the major fields included in an action item and the role they play:
The priority field denotes the importance and urgency of an action item within the wider range of the project itself. This offers the project team an easy way of choosing which tasks to execute first.
The priority field provides a breakdown of where each task sits in the bigger picture of the project and makes it easier choosing which tasks to execute on. This way, the project management team can be sure they’re executing the most relevant tasks that get them closer to their project objectives faster and in an orderly format. The priority of an action item is usually decided during the project planning process.
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The status field provides the project management team and stakeholders an easy way of staying up-to-date on project progress.
Action item statuses generally include options such as:
- Scheduled—shows that a task has been scheduled to begin
- In progress—marks an action item that’s underway
- In review—denotes an action item that’s been delivered but it under review
- Reassigned—identifies a task that has been delivered, reviewed, and reassigned for retouching
- Completed—marks action items that have been successfully completed
Action item statuses are a simple way of classifying tasks based on their progress in the delivery timeline. They make it easy to know where a task is at with minimal effort.
The owner/creator field is used to identify which member of the team created an action item. The owner identification makes it easy to reach out for more info in case an action item isn’t detailed enough for the assigned team member to deliver on it.
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The description field offers more detailed information on the action item, and the factors relevant to it. It offers a snapshot of the what, why, and how of the action item.
The description may contain information regarding:
- whom the action item is geared towards i.e. end-users
- general guidelines on executing the action item
- points to note while carrying out the action item
The description field makes it easier for the project management team to do their best work by providing the basic information they need in one place and in a brief format.
5. Date created
The date created field is simply a note of when the action item was created in the project management software or tool the PM team uses. With insight into when an action item was created, it’s easier tracking the action item’s history if there’s ever a need to look in retrospect.
6. Date assigned
The date assigned field marks when an action item was assigned to a person on the team. The date assigned value offers a brief overview of how long the task has stayed in progress or at a certain stage.
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7. Due date
The due date value is the time the owner of the action item determines the task should be completed, reviewed, and marked as closed by. A due date makes it easy for the project management team or the assignee to work on a schedule, so the project can be completed within a reasonable timeframe.
8. Percentage complete
The percentage completion field is a tracker that shows the progress of the action item, based on how far work has gone on the sub-tasks and project deliverables that are expected to be fully provided once the task is complete.
The percentage complete value can be updated manually by the assignee as the steps of the task are completed. Otherwise, it’s best if the percentage completion value is updated automatically as the project management tool tracks the stages which the action item progresses through.
The percentage completion value is a good way for both the project manager and the team working on it to keep tabs on the progress of their work.
Like a standard comments section, a comments field offers a way for stakeholders involved on a task to share knowledge around the action item, without leaving the project management tool. Comments offer an avenue for the team members and the project manager to offer insights, make notes, and generally, to communicate with one another on their views for the project.
The attachments field offers access to the files that relate to the action item. The action item owner or any relevant stakeholder can upload these to the action item’s management board. The attachments field makes it easy for the project manager and individual members of the team to be able to get a clearer picture of the action item and make decisions without having to involve more members of the team.
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Each detail in an action item offers a bit of information into the action item and the project at hand at large. All put together, this offers enough information into the action item and makes it easier for the entire team to do their best work with minimal friction or back-and-forth.
Here’s a sample action item template:
Best practices for tracking the progress of action items
Now, with an overview of the data an action item should offer to make it easier to track, how do you manage each action item most effectively?
Here are a few best practices designed to simplify action item management so your team can focus more on executing.
- Simplify: break tasks into subtasks for easy management.
- Communicate: Reach out to relevant team members to get their insights whenever necessary
- Inform: Whenever an action item gets to you, make sure to leave enough tips and info to help the next person carry with easy
- Equip: Choose a project management software that is naturally built to offer robust information into each action item and its progress from to-do to done
If you’re looking for a tool to manage action items, look no further. Kissflow Project offers a complete project management suite so you can keep track of all your action items. You can add 20+ custom fields with a simple drag-and-drop mechanism. You also get a complete picture of all your projects.
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