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3 Simple Reasons Your Team Never Gets Anything Done

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Stop me if this sounds eerily familiar:

Scene: Your third meeting of the day. On the conference table in front of you is a printed agenda. You look around the room and see familiar faces. This is your team. Per the agenda, progress is relayed, problems are discussed and solutions are identified. And that’s when things become...pointless. Utterly, and completely, pointless.

After an hour of discussion you sense the room stir. People shift in their chairs, look at phones and close notebooks. The meeting is almost over. The head of the meeting, sensing they’re losing control, nervously says, “Well this was great, thanks everybody!”

Later, back at your desk, you realize what just happened. Nothing.

Literally nothing happened.

Why? Because nobody bothered to ask these three simple questions:

  • Who?

  • What?

  • By When?

What I’ve described is an example, repeated in offices and agencies all over the world, where teams talk “about it” but never talk “it.” In other words, people fail to drill down and reach a level of specificity required to get “it” done.

The key to getting things done and making forward progress on an issue lies in these three simple questions:

Who: Nothing can happen if nobody is responsible. Who, you must ask, is responsible for a specific task or action? Never leave a meeting without making sure to identify “who” is responsible for “what.”

What: What is “who” doing? Make sure the task is identified and that a responsible person is identified (and informed of their new task).

By When: Here’s where people lose their nerve. Put a stake in the ground! By when is “who” doing “what”? There is no accountability without it.

If you're not asking these three questions you guarantee you and your team will accomplish nothing.

Does this sound familiar? How do you make sure your team gets things done? Share your best practices in the comments. 

Other Tips on Running Effective Meetings:

Image via Ollyy/

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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