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September - 2006 - issue > Protocol@Work
Follow-through and Closure
Sridhar Jayanthi
Thursday, August 31, 2006
The main object of this article may seem trivial and over-covered. It is neither. While most of this is common sense, to be a global caliber player, every professional needs to understand this topic more intimately. For a manager, to improve productivity of your team, understanding the importance of follow-through and closure will serve you well.

Next time you are in a meeting, just look around and see how many people are making notes, either on their laptop or PDA or a plain paper note book. For a typical techie, meetings are a way of life. In all well-meaning or well-run companies, meetings are important to disseminate information, share findings and/or make decisions. Most meetings end with some players getting assigned action items to achieve a certain minor or major milestone to make progress in the overall project. It is expected that owners of action items will execute them as agreed.

Those who are serious about their job and their obligations walk away from every category of meeting with important notes and commitment to action. Those who don’t make notes are typically misguided in believing that they will remember everything. In my opinion, the success of a professional hugely depends on the ability of his/her manager or peer to strongly rely on him/her to succeed in an overall team goal. It is very easy to catch the attention of management by simply keeping up with your commitments consistently. This requires making notes, not just to keep record, but to be able to prioritize your tasks and use your time wisely. Keeping notes organized, and having the ability to extract information that will drive your subsequent activity is an easy skill to learn and a difficult one to maintain. All of us have such good practices to learn. When was the last time somebody got promoted after frequently forgetting to keep their end of the bargain?

For the smart techie, some suggestions:
1.) Always walk into a meeting with a note book; make notes of relevant thoughts, ideas, decisions, and issues and not just action items; a paper book is preferred over a laptop since typing into a computer can be distracting and often not easy to draw quick pictures or type short formatted notes as quickly as just writing. You may just have to take 10 minutes to feed the information into the computer if needed after the meeting.
2.) Mark your action items and other commitments with a symbol on the left or right side of the notes to highlight them as To Do list additions; Check them off as you complete them
3.) Review your Notes at the end of each meeting or the day to update the To Do list. Consolidate your To Do list each day and reprioritize based on the changes that occurred the previous day; There are many ways to do this – the simplest is to organize them in categories such as “Urgent”, “Immediate future”, “Long-Term” and other similar ones.
4.) Plan your day based on the priorities indicated by your action items, overlaid by the other activities and meetings that are required of you.

For Managers:
To promote a follow-through culture, a couple of easy tips:
1.) Make notes yourself and lead by example
2.) Start each meeting with action items from the last meeting and review progress
3.) Provide feedback regarding follow-through and closure to your team members, especially to individuals who “forgot” action items or started on them too late to do it well.

Sridhar Jayanthi is the VP of Engineering and Head - India Operations, McAfee Engineering Center.
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