How to get due date commitments for ANY action item

When it comes to building a career in management consulting, you learn that many of the success habits build on each other.

One such habit is setting due dates for every action item.

I've talked about noting action items as one of the key components of taking meeting notes like the rich and powerful.

And while knowing what needs to be done is a huge first step, assigning a date for the follow-up often goes neglected.

Believe me when I tell you it’s all fun and games until you ask someone to commit to a date. When you do that, people get a little squirmy, which is exactly why you need to do it.

You might think it’s easy to just choose a date that sounds reasonable, but if you don’t get people to agree to it, I can tell you with 99% certainty the response you’re going to get when the due date arrives.

I never agreed to that.

It sounds ridiculous, but it works so well. Why would there be any expectation of people doing work they didn’t agree to do?

How to get people to commit to due dates for action items

There are two ways to get people to commit to due dates for action items.

Option 1: once the person agrees the action belongs to them, ask “can you have this completed by X date?” If they say yes, you adjourn the meeting. If they counter, then you have your date. If that date doesn’t work, you may have to negotiate a bit (e.g. if others are depending on the outcome of the action and have an earlier start date). If they come back with a hard no, then you go to option 2.

Option 2 is leaving the due date open to the action item owner by asking, “when can you have this complete?” This may play out in two ways. They will either a) dance around the question by telling you all of the things they have to do and avoiding providing a date at all or b) giving you a date that’s too far out to be useful for anyone. If a) you ask again for what seems reasonable. If b) you renegotiate until all parties involved come to some agreement, similar to option 1 in the previous paragraph.

If you want a simpler view of this process, click the button below to download a simple process flow of how to go about getting buy-in on action item due dates.