We attend a lot of meetings and make many decisions.
We plan for future meetings where we revisit old decisions. Progress feels so slow. Why does so little get accomplished?

At these meetings, we hear people say, "It would be great if..." and "Someone should..." But these are weasel words. They do not lead to action. Rather, they're indirect requests that usually lead to inaction.

So what's the solution? Fred Kofman has some concrete advice in his blog post titled "Are You Making This Mistake at the End of Your Meetings?" His prescription is pretty simple. Because we're nice people, most of us ask for things without really asking. We hope that our colleagues will understand what we're really saying, but we don't want to be pushy. But Kofman has a simple formula for action, which everyone can adapt to their individual situations:

If you need something accomplished, you say this:

1. In order to get A (a want or need)
2. I ask that you deliver B (a product or service or output) by C (a deadline).
3. Can you commit to that?

There are three appropriate responses to this request for a commitment:
  1. Yes, I commit.
  2. No, I decline to commit.
  3. I can't commit yet, because...
    • I need clarification.
    • I need to check; I promise to respond by X.
    • I want to propose an alternative.
    • I can make it only if I get Y by Z.
But here's what you may hear instead:
  1. Yes, I'll try.
  2. Let me see what I can do.
  3. Seems doable.
  4. Let me check into it.
  5. Someone will take care of it.
These are not commitments!

Read Kofman's whole blog post on this topic. I can think of several circumstances where a commitment-focused meeting might a significant difference.

Image by Mark Hak