Action Commitments


“Remember, a real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.” — Tony Robbins

All talk, no action?  Good ideas, but no results?  A common problem is a lack of action commitments.

If you don’t break your decisions down into effective actions with owners, don’t expect results.  If you have owners for actions, but you haven’t equipped them for success, don’t be surprised when things fall through.  Turning decisions into effective actions requires thoughtful work assignments.

In The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management, Peter Drucker explains how to turn decisions into actions.

Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:

  • Turn decisions into action commitments.  Actions speak louder than words.  Knowing what to do is not the same as doing what you know.
  • Get the right owners for the actions.  The key is to have the right people doing the right things to get the right results.
  • Support the action owners.  Know what the action owners need to be successful and support them.

I see a lot of decisions that never turn into results.  I know people mean well, but making things happen takes more than just desire.  It takes action.  The challenge with turning decisions into action is understanding the work required.

Questions To Help Convert a Decision Into Action
Drucker uses a precise set of questions to help convert decisions into actions and he warns us that the first and the last of these are too often overlooked – with dire results.:

  1. Who has to know of this decision?
  2. What action has to be taken?
  3. Who is to take it?
  4. And what does the action have to be so that the people who have to do it can do it?

    Decisions are Not Effective Without Action Commitments
    According to Drucker, simply making decisions doesn’t help if they aren’t turned into action:

    Converting the decision into action is the fourth major element in the decision process.  While thinking through the boundary conditions is the most difficult step in decision-making, converting the decisions into effective action is usually the most time-consuming one.  Yet  a decision will not become effective unless the action commitments have been built into the decision from the start.

    Until There’s Work Assignments, There’s Only Good Intentions
    Drucker says it’s actions that count:

    In fact, no decision has been made unless carrying it out in specific steps has become someone’s work assignment and responsibility.  Until then, there are only good intentions.

    A Declaration of What You’re Not Going to Do
    Drucker tells us why people doubt policy statements from above:

    That is the trouble with so many policy statements, especially of business; they contain no action commitment.  To carry them out is no one’s specific work and responsibility.  No wonder that the people in the organization tend to view these statements cynically if not as declarations of what top management is really not going to do.

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    1. Hi J.D,

      Very thought provoking, truthful post. I love the story you included about excess parts that accumulated.

      As much as actions do speak louder than words, words are necessary to communicate the actions.

      This has been a great lesson in the importance of communication and not “blowing smoke”.

    2. Thanks Barbara

      I’m trying to make “action commitments” a habit for results. When I go to training, I ask “what are 3 things I can apply?” and at the end of meetings I ask “Next steps?” or “action items?” It’s funny how checking for actions cuts through fog or “blowing smoke.”

    3. J.D.,

      I love this post! It’s very similar to the Massive Action concept I outline in my ‘Change your life with Kaizen’ post.

      If ideas aren’t turned into actions then they don’t really count as ideas.


    4. Thanks David

      I’m a fan of Kaizen — very much so.

      I came across an interesting distiction between creativity and innovation — creativity stayed in the mind or thoughts, while innovation turned into results. So I think a key for ideas and innovation really is taking action.

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