Follow-up Or Fold-up



Ever get frustrated by sitting in agonizing meetings and nothing gets resolved? We all have and nothing is more discouraging. Solutions to problems cannot always be made during the meeting but an action plan leading to a solution can and should be developed before the meeting is adjourned. It is the responsibility of the person chairing the meeting to facilitate the development of the plan.


The plan itself can be quite simple. Usually between three and five actions can easily be defined to pursue. If more are recognized as important, some may be put into a “holding pen” until other more important actions are completed.


The action statement may be the definition of the problem as known at the time. This will undoubtedly change as progress is made and a better understanding of the real problem is revealed. The statement of importance is necessary because people naturally are more productive when they know the importance of their work. Defining how progress will be measured is key to know when the task is on the right path and also when the task is completed so the individual and/or team assigned to it can go forward to other actions.


The objective needs to be defined before the meeting is adjourned so that agreement is reached among interested parties of what is to be accomplished. Then, someone has to step up and take responsibility for achieving the results, to be the leader of the action. Finally, a targeted completion date needs to be determined so the activity does not drag out unnecessarily.

Action Plan



Why is this important?

How will we measure it?



Completion Date








Completing the action may take several forms. The solution to some problems is so obvious once the problem is identified; the leader only needs to “just do it”. Others may be likened to low-hanging fruit where minimal investigation or data gathering is necessary to find the best solution. Others may require more work and in that case, the seven-step problem solving process developed by Japanese academicians can be used.

Step 1.a is to define the problem. It is best to do this in pencil because what we think is the problem may not be the real problem when we dig deeper. 1.b is to collect data and portray it in chart form to prove that the problem is real. Step 2 is to examine the current situation from several points of view; typically different times, places, types, and symptoms. Again this data should be displayed in chart form. It is at this point that I usually have to rewrite my problem statement.

Step 3.a is to analyze all possible causes that can be identified in a brainstorming exercise and then form our hypothesis as to the leading cause. Step 3.b is to collect data to prove that our hypothesis is supported and we have identified to best cause to address.

Step 4 is usually the easiest step, act on the cause, because if we have done our homework correctly in the previous steps, the proper cause of action is now obvious. Step 5 is to collect data as in step 1.b and compare to prove that our action is producing favorable results. If not, we have to go back to resetting our hypothesis as to the root cause of the problem.

Step 6 is to standardize the changes to make sure they are implemented throughout the organization. Step 7 is to draw conclusions and analyze what was learned that could be applied elsewhere.

Next comes the most important activity of the action process and that is follow-up by management. We have gained nothing if the plan is allowed to languish and become forgotten. Periodic follow-up will keep attention on the actions and they can be completed and people allowed to move on to other activities. Human nature drives us to get results if we know our progress is being observed.

The prognosis is not good for organizations that allow problems to smolder and not get resolved. Developing an action plan and following up on progress can make our lives easier and work more satisfying.