Keeping Actions in the Action Log

Even a seemingly straightforward project can quickly reach a complexity that requires an action log, and even a simple action log in a spreadsheet can be an effective tool to manage a project’s actions. However as soon as a project starts using an action log, problems will arise with actions that are not in the action log. Indeed having actions existing outside the action log defeats the purpose of the action log and means that the project team will not be motivated to use it and may even receive conflicting requests.

Generally actions outside the action log occur in three groups and there are different strategies to deal with them an ensure the same thing- that there are no actions outside of the action log.

Internal Project Actions

Hopefully in a well managed project there are few problems with the project team not using their own action log. However very urgent actions may for example be missed, or perhaps that one colleague in the other office always does things differently. There is no easy way out here, it just requires discipline and perseverance to ensure that all the team use the action log. Having said that:

  • In project meetings, only discuss actions from the action log. This will encourage team members to use the action log.
  • If needed, setup special processes to deal with certain actions, for example very urgent actions may be started immediately but must be added to the action log within 24 hours.

Actions from Outside the Project Team

Project sponsors and other management functions will often create actions for a project, and may do this in an ad-hoc manner during meetings, via email or in phone calls.

  • Whenever the project team goes to meetings, ensure there is clear responsibility for who will collect the actions, to make sure all actions are noted.
  • Provide written feedback to the requesting-person when an action has been accepted and state who will be handling the action.

Actions from Outside the Organisation

It is often undesirable to share the complete action log with other organisations (for example suppliers and customers) and in large projects the other organisations will normally have their own internal action logs. What can be done to ensure that the actions stay consistent between organisations?

  • Plan the communication between the two organisations, ideally so that there is a single focal point for actions on each side and train the project teams to use these focal points when making new requests. This will prevent duplicate actions and ensure both organisations are aware of all actions.
  • Ensure a regular exchange of shared actions. This means regularly sharing relevant extracts of action logs (ideally in a common format) between the organisations.

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