Run More Effective Meetings With The 3 “W”s

How to Assign Action Items in Meetings

We are all accustomed to going to meetings where there is a lot of discussion and head nodding around the room.  After 60 minutes, there are jovial pats on the back as people leave the conference room; after all, there’s another meeting in there at the top of the hour.  But how many meetings have you gone to where nothing was actually accomplished?  Assigning action items in meetings is essential to maintaining progress and getting things done.  Let’s explore the 3W management model, which can help you assign better actions to employees.

Getting the Most From Meetings: Time is Valuable

Meetings take up a lot of time and should be viewed as an investment.  Many leaders fail to get the desired results from their meetings.  When you look up the definition of the word meeting, you will find a definition of “an assembly or conference of persons for a specific purpose.”  I was in a meeting just the other day during which the person leading the discussion talked about our team’s sales targets for the year.  He abruptly thanked us for attending and began packing up.  I asked “do we need to do something?”  The host, surprised by the questions, said ‘No, this was just for your awareness.’  With limited exception, there’s no point in having a meeting unless it leads to tangible action.

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Moreover, when hosting a meeting, a recap of notes and actions at the end is always valuable.  Not only does it summarize the takeaways, it gathers the various messages people heard, resurfaces any issues that were not really resolved and helps bring things to a close.  Then, you can summarize actions using the 3Ws:  Who is going to do What, by When?

5 Quick Tips For Running a Meeting:

  • Have an Agenda
  • Explain the Purpose of the Meeting at the Start
  • Summarize the Discussion at the End
  • Review and Assign Actions
  • Schedule a Follow-Up (If Needed)

The 3W Management Model

Who Owns the Action? – Naturally, ‘Who’ defines the person responsible for completing the given task.  More importantly, when a person sees his or her name assigned to something, there is a little psychological trigger that encourages them to pay closer attention.  By publicly putting the person’s name down and assigning a task to that individual, it will drive ownership and accountability.

What Is The Action Owner to Do? – Of course, ‘What’ refers to the task to be performed, or duty the person is to fulfill.  The ‘What’ clarifies the specific information or action that the individual is expected to perform.  It is important to recognize that the ‘What’ should be specific enough for the individual to fulfill, as well as clear to everyone else so they understand what to expect once the action is closed.

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“…if the topic is important enough to get the team together, assign actions to drive progress.”

When Must the Action Be Completed? – The ‘When’ sets the timeline.  A person can be assigned a specific task, and that’s great.  But if it is important enough for discussion and assign to someone, it should also be obvious that no one benefits until the task is complete.  Otherwise, there is no point in writing the action down in the first place.  The ‘When’ will also help establish a level of accountability.


The 3Ws are a useful way to help make your meetings more productive.  Remember, if the topic is important enough to get the team together, assign actions to drive progress.

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