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next actions vs letting it lie fallow

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  • next actions vs letting it lie fallow

    Sometimes, a 'next action' may not be the right way to close a discussion. Sometimes, it might actually be best to leave the discussion open, threads loose and dangling, percolating, lying fallow, unclosed and continuing. Defining a next action is certainly neater. So, how do you decide when to deviate from the best practice of defining a next action, and go with the non-standard decision to leave things open?

  • #2
    Leaving things open still has a next action: "Why don't we go away and think about this and meet again in a couple of weeks?"

    Often, it's impossible to come to a decision without additional information. In that case, the next action is to do more research: "We can't do anything on this without a budget. John, could you call the VP and ask how much he's willing to spend on this?"

    The problem with letting things truly lie fallow is that you've created a vague open loop for everyone involved in the discussion. I'd suggest *always* closing the loop, if only by telling everyone how long they can ignore the topic. (Perhaps through the group equivalent of a Someday/Maybe list.)



    • #3
      I'm with Katherine: Usually there's some reason why people give the "I need to think about it" answer. Either they know and don't want to say, they don't have enough information, or they just haven't done the hard work of deciding (balancing +s and -s, making a commitment), etc.

      That said, sometimes people do need time to let it percolate. In that case, set a firm deadline, one that's not too far in the future (e.g., a few days, two weeks, etc.) and go ahead and make an appointment *now* to reconvene and decide. Also, agree that there's only one extension.