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Topics: Communications Management
Action Item Documents - How many is too many?
I have a client who seems to have a need for all action items, questions, and decisions to be documented in more than one place.

1. Action items that are determined/discussed during a weekly call are included in the weekly call notes (in the body of the "notes" and then summarized at the bottom of the notes in a list for easy viewing)
2. The weekly call action items are added to the main project schedule.
3. All action items are to be documented in another file that only includes action items
4. Upcoming action items are to be listed in the weekly report

In my mind, the amount of time that is spent duplicating the same information into 4 different documents does not seem efficient (and listed 5 times because it is listed twice in one document).

Document #3 & #4 can be viewed in Document #2 by selecting a filter that I created.

Is this common practice? I can see documenting the action items once in the weekly notes, adding them to the action items document, and then referencing a link to the A.I. document. But, having to type same information 5 times seems ridiculous.
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Common practice or not, it clearly is not an ideal document management practice and one that inherently introduces risk into the project. There can only be one source of truth. In the described scenario, there are many.

I'd recommend looking for opportunity to discuss and work with the team in introducing a streamlined approach.
Karrie -

What is prompting this level of duplication on the part of the client? Have they been burned in the past by "hidden work"? It might help to have a 1:1 sit down with the main driver for this and see if there is a better way to address their concerns and to help them understand the costs (financial and intangible) of the current approach.

Kiron
Karrie

This is too much abortive work and unnecessary duplication of efforts. You probably need to have a sit down with the key stakeholders and present to them the duplication of work and it’s impact on value deliver (I.e. paid time without added value).

RK
You need to see if this is only happening in case of action items or all other documents (risk log, change log etc). This is a common practice in Matrix organisation where the level of influence is low. Sometimes this also happens when the stakeholder is not seeing the progress in a timely manner and hence trying to micromanage or use the documents as a reminder. I would suggest you to look into the documents and analyze the trend of the action items.
1. Identify the aged action items and ensure they are closed.
2. For upcoming items plan the action before the due date and update the progress.
3. Update the status of the actions to the client on a daily basis. (Alternately you can act what Kiron suggested)
4. Another point - check if the action owner is the person who actually need to work on it or a representative from the team (obviously he doesn't understand the need correctly). Try to involve the person who need to work on the action directly rather than involving the representative.

As and when the number starts reducing your duplication of effort will also reduce :).
The first question is: who is accountable for the process/life cycle that is following on the project? You or your client. "Rules" to follow are defined by who is accountable for the process. Obviously then have to be agree but the accountability still remains. Second question is: which will add value?. If something do not add value then it is waste. The situation you are describing is a classic when somebody has no confidence that the other, the accountable, is in control. If that is the situation then forget about to perform project management is a healty way.
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1 reply by Debasish Sahoo
Apr 21, 2020 7:17 AM
Debasish Sahoo
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You are spot on Sergio.
Apr 21, 2020 6:52 AM
Replying to Sergio Luis Conte
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The first question is: who is accountable for the process/life cycle that is following on the project? You or your client. "Rules" to follow are defined by who is accountable for the process. Obviously then have to be agree but the accountability still remains. Second question is: which will add value?. If something do not add value then it is waste. The situation you are describing is a classic when somebody has no confidence that the other, the accountable, is in control. If that is the situation then forget about to perform project management is a healty way.
You are spot on Sergio.
There are a number of direct costs to action item duplication:

1) the cost of the effort,
2) the costs associated with mistakes made with double and triple (if not more) data entry,
3) the second guessing as to importance of the action item and effort to resolve.

Generally it leads to "too many chefs in the kitchen"

Somehow your client has to be convinced that the risks outweigh the benefits. Failing that, there must be a data base available that allows for a single entry with multiple reporting capability.
That's a lot of action items for your action items...
Action items are our shorter "to-do" lists of things team members need to do to support the plan, rather than scheduled events so typically have their own separate list. It seems they're overdoing it, but there is some natural duplication because of how that information is generated and used.

Action items are usually taken during meetings so they are often found in the minutes. I generally write them as I go and highlight them somehow so they jump out later as discrete actions. If there is a scribe taking actions they could be put on the list then and there but if I am running the meeting myself, stopping a meeting every time to write actions slows everyone down. If not (which is most often) I add them to the action items as I'm writing minutes from my notes. I want to add them to a common list however, because nobody should have to dig through all the minutes to find them. The AI list gets reviewed regularly during progress meetings, not every copy of the minutes.

Action items almost never go on the project schedule. Those are usually significant plan items and not day to day minutia. Sometimes however, someone thinks of a major event to add to the schedule, and the action is to update the schedule by some date.

Some action items may be on the weekly report, but not the whole list. On big projects, it's a big list. The report is for the benefit of our sponsors and employers. They also don't need to know every time someone has to go answer some question that came up in a meeting. Sometimes the sponsors assign the action however. Key actions can go on the report to tell them when they will get that answer.

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