The magic secret to assigning actions to people that actually get done

If you have ever wondered how to get your projects moving forward and your team engaged and even excited to work on your projects, wonder no more, here is the answer for you, keep reading.

Yes, the problem is real; many actions are left undone as the workday ends for a lot of people out there. And there are some very real, meaningful reasons (and things you can do to help sidestep those traps). Here is the list (in decreasing importance):
The action is not assigned to anyone in particular (or worse, it’s assigned to a group, or to multiple individuals).
The action has no deadline attached to it.
The action is not an action, it’s actually a full-on project that the other person needs to sit down and spend 2 hours mapping out for themselves.
The action is obviously a meta-work one, basically a waste of time thing to do to please some higher authority that doesn’t actually move the needle forward in a meaningful way - e.g. get a report in excel out of the system, and then copy and paste and reformat it in a word document, then write a cover email for it, and send it to your manager (who could have run the same excel report on their own, or better yet  getting real-time info from his team, without bothering them, so they’d all get more and better work done in less time).
The action is out of context, it‘s added on a “shared todo” list that has another 20 things on it, but no context about what gave rise to it, no immediate access to support information, or to the team involved in this work where you can quickly ask a question or get a recommendation from on how to handle it. So this one action is now three more actions of finding out what it is about, go ask people, talk to them, and then come back and start to work on the actual “action”.
There is no single place where you can see this new action, plus all the other work that you have committed to doing or been assigned to do. Worse yet, even if you have a way to see all that for yourself, there is no way for your manager, the person who assigned you the action or other co-workers to see this information live, real time.
There is no place where you can see how this one “upcoming” action stacks up against things that are already overdue, or due this week. Therefore the “low, medium, high” priority or the star or whatever other thing is attached to the action is not useful to you.
There is some little “clever checkbox or some other gimmick IT people dreamed up and put into the task list you’re using that if you touch the action it’s going to now show as “in progress” or it will ping somebody, or it will get onto a timesheet for your or something else that’s “helpful” but really isn’t at all. So now you cannot even open the blessed thing to read it properly without triggering alarm bells, and having your manager start the countdown clock on how long you’re meant to be spending to do this thing.
The action is detached from the outcome - yes it says go edit this document and provide your feedback in it, but it’s not immediately, obviously there for you what the goal is here. What is the bigger picture outcome you and the team are looking to achieve? Maybe if you had the outcome right at your fingertips, it would make sense to put your feedback and key highlight from the document in a pitch deck, or it might make more sense for you to expand your thinking in a diagram that you add instead of trying to paint word pictures. Or maybe you could tell the others that it might be faster to build out a quick little mock-up to show the client and walk them through instead of giving them back 34 pages of explanations. Who knows what is best? You do, but only if you are reminded of the bigger picture, the outcome, the reason for doing what you are doing right then, or for doing what you’ve been assigned with.
This action relates to another thing that happened before in the project and it was a mistake to do it then, and it will be a mistake to do it now if you only you could quickly and easily find that other conversation and tell the person who assigned you the action about it in 2 minutes that would be such a great thing - but alas your “task list” doesn’t have conversations and even if it did, they’ll be tied to a task that’s now ticked off as done and that conversation would be buried forever.

Don’t make these mistakes when you assign tasks to the people you work with.

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