A Conversation Is Not an Action

Written by Kate Burgman


A colleague recently asked me, “How do you get any work done when you’re running from meeting to meeting all day?”


You may know this feeling. I have to admit – I didn’t have an immediate answer, so I decided to ponder it for a while. Unlike many people, I actually enjoy meetings, at least most of the time. As a project manager and strategist here at Mekanic, one of the many roles I play is to help projects get done as efficiently as possible, and meetings are key to achieving this, in theory. And personally, as an extrovert, I like to talk (and listen – I swear), and get people together to share ideas, discuss the progress they’re making, and receive help from the team if there are roadblocks along the way.


However, we have all experienced countless meetings that didn’t achieve any real objectives, even if they involved good conversations. Mekanic’s own Chief Business Officer, Alex Jimenez, has a saying that rings true: Conversations without actions provide no inherent value to an organization.




Sure, conversations can lead to actions, but you can also talk about something to death without making any decisions, establishing any deliverables, or setting any deadlines.



So, how do we take the conversations that occur during meetings and turn them into actions, or real, tangible work that gets done?



Let’s start with the basics. Meetings need structure and purpose. Typically, this takes the form of an agenda. Make sure a meeting has an agenda or is otherwise organized so that team members know why they’ve been invited, how to prepare, and what to expect. A standing weekly meeting may not need a formal agenda, but if you choose to meet without one, set an expectation for the meeting format, topics, and intended objectives, and adhere to that same formula from week to week to maximize meeting efficiency. This becomes even easier if you try to limit meetings to only ONE TOPIC. We’ve all been guilty of trying to cram multiple discussions into the same meeting, which results in nothing being accomplished by its conclusion. Instead, resolve to make meetings short and simple to avoid participant burnout, achieve collective decisions, and maintain team momentum. Short meetings also keep your notes digestible so they are actually used as a tool. Speaking of that…



Organize and share meeting minutes. Notice I didn’t say “take” – you’re taking notes at your meetings, right? File that under basics as well. But how many times have you taken notes at a meeting, saved them to your computer, and then… nothing happened? Or maybe you took notes, sent them out to the other meeting participants or posted them on a shared drive or file management platform, and then… didn’t follow up on actions and outcomes? You also can’t assume that your raw note-taking style will make sense to your team members. The easiest way to facilitate note sharing is to organize your meeting notes so they clearly outline what the actions are, who each action is assigned to, and what the next steps are. Then, distribute these organized notes using the method that makes the most sense for your team – we like to use online collaboration tools that allow us to track the actions as “to-do” items.



Follow up on actions and next steps. Check in with your team before the next meeting to make sure everyone has what they need to complete their actions, and start your next meeting by discussing progress on the last meeting’s actions. If all goes well, your actions can be marked as complete, your next steps will turn into actions, and the cycle will continue – which contributes to team morale and the sense of a centralized mission.



We put this into practice here at Mekanic, particularly in our Brand Kamp workshops, where we come together with client teams for up to two full days of meetings. We have a lot of conversations at those meetings, running the gamut from ideals and ideation to realism and roadblocks, and we turn those conversations into insights and recommendations for action. With a roadmap of actions in place, we can build brands that are ready for swift activation.



Ready to meet with us and turn some conversations into actions? Drop us a line.