Productive board meetings are lively, fluid discussions where ideas and solutions come to life. However, those ideas can’t move forward without clear direction. Enter action items — the stepping stones to clear decision-making, actionable goal setting, and effective execution. 

Action items have a few key elements, such as a task description, the person responsible for completing it, and the due date. But beyond the basics, this article explains the best ways to write, distribute, and manage action items stemming from your board meetings.

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What Are Action Items In A Meeting?

Action items are tasks assigned to an individual or group with a specific deadline, typically presented as an extension of meeting minutes. Individuals or groups appointed to action items are responsible for completing the job. These particular tasks can be a single or a multi-step process. 

Action items can include reworking a budget, planning meetings with potential investors, and other tasks that move the needle towards an end goal.

Why Meeting Action Items Are Important

Organization and a goal-oriented framework are vital when building a company in a fast-paced environment. Decisions regarding new goals or solutions to existing problems move forward by putting action items in place. Otherwise, they remain hollow words passed between board members.

Action items are a traditional part of board meetings because they push forward productivity. Their defined structure benefits the company in three major ways: 

1. Follow Through

Assigned action items hold all team members involved accountable for their designated tasks. When an action item is incomplete, other team members know who to follow up with to move things forward. 

2. Productivity 

Action items get the ball rolling, and attached deadlines ensure productivity. Laying out action items following each meeting also helps show leadership that the business is putting effort towards its goals. 

3. Track Progress

Startups are constantly working on multiple projects at the same time. Breaking down steps into smaller, manageable points makes tracking current progress through every stage easier. You can even take your action items further by creating an easy-to-follow tracking system within any type of project management software.

Delegating Action Items

Your board will likely include investors, co-founders, and experts in specific areas who took an interest in your company. Use their unique skills to your advantage. If your actionable items focus on decreasing operational costs, you won’t delegate those items to a marketing specialist. The best action would be to assign the items to a budgeting specialist or an investor with extensive startup experience. 

Delegate tasks based on what board members can offer in terms of expertise. It wouldn’t help anyone to give a member with budget experience a task involving product marketing.

How To Write Action Items

There are a few key elements that make up a productive, actionable task list and ultimately ensure easy tracking and clear expectations. 

  1. End goal — Keep the final objective crystal clear to all parties involved. The more details, the better. A good rule of thumb is following the action verb-noun order at the beginning of the item. “Approve the OpEx budget” is more precise than “OpEx Budget.” 

  1. Details – Vague steps can confuse the assignee and create barriers between expectations and completed work. Write each item from the perspective of someone else reading it. You know what you mean when you write shorthand; your team members won't. 

  1. List assignees – Write everyone’s first and last names on the action item detail sheet. This clarifies who is responsible for what helps with accountability. Teams can then schedule a time to strategize after the meeting.

  1. Confirm assignee availability — Tacking on new responsibilities on an overloaded employee doesn’t help anyone. Confirm the assignee can accomplish the needed tasks without becoming overwhelmed. 

  1. Due date – Outline each task's due date and give realistic time goals. Large projects require consistency and a manageable allotted amount of time. You don’t want the assignee feeling rushed or, on the flip side, being unaware of due dates. 

  1. Add tasks to the workflow – You can manually add tasks to a workflow or look into project management software to automate necessary details. 

Weak action item examples:

  • “Peggy will manually account for each new subscription and compare the number to the month’s revenue to ensure correct balance records.”

Corrected action items:

“Craig will review the month’s OpEx budget and use the information to construct a new budget for the following month.”

“Meg will audit the balance sheet to check for accounts payable and receivable errors.”

“Peggy will manually account for each new subscription and compare the number to the month’s revenue to ensure correct balance records.”

Prepping For Board Meetings

As a founder, you and your board will decide how often board meetings should happen. There is no magic number. However, you want your board meetings to be productive, accurate, and lead to progress or problem-solving. 

That’s why we added CFO Services to our bookkeeping plans. Our expert team helps founders with board meeting presentations, scenario modeling, financial planning, and more. Walk into your board meetings with confidence in your company’s financial health and narrative with help from Zeni.

Want To Learn More About Conducting A Board Meeting? Check Out These Resources:

How To Take Board Meeting Minutes: Do's And Dont's

6 Board Meeting Agenda Must Haves


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