10 Opportunities to Push from Decision to Action

By: Jan Bolick

This list is in support of our Quote of the Week:  A real decision is measured by action…

What if nothing happens after spending hours in meetings….discussing, debating and deciding?

Frustrating, isn’t it?  It can be a real downer for morale and productivity.

And if that happens a lot,  it will soon become hard to even engage people in problem solving sessions.  I mean – why bother?

So – if you ask meeting participants why nothing has been done yet, have you ever gotten responses like:

  • “Oh – I didn’t realize we had actually decided anything.”
  • “I thought John was supposed to do it.”
  • “I didn’t really understand what was said that day.”
  • “I didn’t know we had started that.”

Or have you ever discussed a problem with a colleague, come up with a solution and then days later one of you said to the other, “Now what did we decide about that?”

Have you ever had a team member who seemed willing to take action but not without lots of direction from you?

Have you ever assigned a big project to someone and then seen absolutely no progress on it for weeks?

Have you ever had a big, important project and made absolutely no progress on it for weeks because you couldn’t find the big blocks of time needed to do so? Perhaps because you were busy with other things (like those above)?

Just reading about it makes me tired, impatient, crabby and a bit insane. How about you?

What to do about it?

First, as an awareness builder, share  this week’s quote with colleagues.   And then, use this favorite Business Class question as a call to action.

What’s the next step?

  1. At the end of every problem solving session, ask the question, “What’s the next step?”
  2. At the end of every brainstorming session, ask the question, “What’s the next step?”
  3. At the end of every discussion in the hallway when someone stops you to ask a question, end the conversation with, “What’s the next step?”
  4. At the end of each meeting you have with a colleague or direct report, end with “What’s the next step?”
  5. At the end of every phone conversation, end with “What’s the next step?”

Caution: Be sure to record these “next steps” somewhere, as well as who is responsible for the next step and by when. Below is a suggested format.

Another word of caution: It sounds so simple to remember to ask this question. But back when we came up with this as a solution to our own office issues, we were moving so fast that we had a hard time remembering and so we posted a sign on the back of the conference room door. It looked something like this (below).

And it helped so much that I also put one up on the back of my office door.

Computer screens are also a great place to post important reminders. Below are three different designs, ready to become your wallpaper in three easy clicks (directions at bottom of this screen**). Pass these designs around…let each person select her favorite design. Click to enlarge.

What's the next step? What's the next step? What's the next step?

6. Whenever you start a new project, unless the process is cut and dry, brainstorm all the possible next steps. Choose the best ones – i.e. the ones most likely to help you achieve desired outcome. If appropriate, put them in progression so it’s easy to delegate them in a meaningful way and/or easy to tackle them one by one – even if you can’t find a big block of time. Below is a handy tool.

7. Whenever you assign a new project, brainstorm a list of possible next steps with the assignee. Be as scant as you can with your own suggestions and this will serve as an excellent development exercise. If it matters, ask him put the steps in progression. Use the handy tool above. Ask him which steps he can do on his own. Provide training/information on the others. Set him free to work the list of next steps until a designated date and time for review. More on this in #8.

8. When you meet with him for review, ask what he has done so far? Then ask, “What are your next steps?  If you agree with his answer, congratulate him. If not, make suggestions for improvement. Soon you AND he will feel comfortable about taking even bigger steps without you. Which means you and he and everyone else can get more done.

9. Before each day begins, do a quick review. For every project you have underway…what’s the next step? Use one of the tools below if desired.

Though he calls them “next actions”, David Allen addresses the value of this on page 173 of his book, Making It All Work.  He says that defining “next actions”, “creates a bridge from the invisible to the visible, from idea into reality”. He also says, “without that determination…you will likely procrastinate about getting involved in a project because you think (but aren’t sure) you don’t have the time available to do so.”  That’s why I also like this list:  10 steps that take 5 minutes or less.

10. At the end of the day…use one of the above sheets to determine a next step for every project you have underway. By doing this at the end of the day, you are one step ahead for tomorrow.

In summary:

Take EVERY opportunity to determine next steps.

It keeps things moving…but not unnecessarily so.

Do less.
Leave things undone. Stop the busy-ness.
Determine the BIG ROCKS.

And then get everybody involved in determining and taking the next steps that will help you master the BIG ROCKS.

The ones that are most likely to provide your desired outcome.

Some will be 5 minute baby steps. Some will be giant steps. Put them all together, and you’ll be getting more done in less time and leaping forward toward your goals.

Note: If you need help with NEXT STEPS – hire Jan as your coach. She specializes in working with leaders to take charge, make things happen and inspire their teams to do the same. Here’s a shortcut to info on our coaching programs

* This weekly feature is for managers who don’t have time or don’t want to make time to read lengthy articles or even short paragraphs. We call it a Quick List. AKA – 10 by 10 on Tuesday. 10 ( ideas or tips or questions or steps or ways to Get 2 Goal or Be a Better Manager, etc) by 10 (AM – EST) on Tuesdays. Click here if you’d like to see all Quick Lists created to date

**To post any one of the 3 “What’s the next step?” designs as background or wallpaper for your computer:

1. Click on the desired image.

2. Right click on the image that appears.

3. On the pull down menu that appears, click on “set as background”.

Voila! There’s still plenty of room on the left side of the screen for all your shortcut icons.

There are 153 quotes in our Quote Library–in two different formats- for your computer screen and as a printable PDF.

Don’t have access to the library yet? Get your password here.


If you don’t like your new wallpaper, don’t want to replace it with a quote from the Business Class Quote Library and don’t know how to get rid of it……

Go to your control panel. Select “Display”. Select “Desktop”. And then choose from the designs offered.

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