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“action item” August 13, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Definition.

action item
(AK shun EYE tum)

Whatever happened to the good old days, when we made lists of things we had to do, prioritized them, did them, then went to our managers and said “I finished projects x, y, and z. I’m still working on a and b, but I’ll be done with them by the end of the week.” Our managers would then give us the corporate equivalent of a pat on the head and send us home early for the day.

No longer. Now we don’t have lists. We have “action items”.

How does an action item differ from something on a list?

1. An action item is ordered by a manager. A list item is made by the person completing the job.
2. An action item came out of a brainstorming session or other meeting of People Who Make More Than You. A list item is something you might have come up with yourself, or with one other person — maybe even your boss.
3. When you say “action item” you supposedly sound like you’re being forceful and taking the initiative, but really you sound kind of like a tool. When you say “I have that on my list of things to do”, you sound like someone who’s organized and knows how to prioritize.
4. You don’t prioritize action items. Managers do that. You just write them on your list of things to do.
5. Action items may never get done. Stuff on your list has to get done.

People in positions of power use phrases like “action item”. Project managers sometimes do it. But the guy who has to take charge of a project and herd cats (that is, his/her peers) probably will just tell people to put things on their lists and get them done in order of priority. No action required.


1. User links about "item" on iLinkShare - October 16, 2008

[…] | user-saved public links | iLinkShare 3 votes“action item”>> saved by jpmello 1 days ago2 votesNOT SO VISIBLE/BLIND ITEM….>> saved by rmoore1994 18 days […]

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