In managementese, "actionable" means "able to be acted upon". Unfortunately, its primary meaning is "giving sufficient reason to take legal action" in legalese. I'm looking for a better alternative to the managementese meaning that doesn't have the unfortunate associations, but still has good Sexy Buzzword Value; help?

Example sentence per request: "This has now become one of our actionable items."

Another, related meaning that's within the range of what I'm looking for is able to be actively used. To illustrate, the best alternative to "actionable" that we've come up with in the original context is deployable.

  • Can you give an example sentence? – waiwai933 Feb 22 '11 at 4:30
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    @chaos: What I meant is that, like ghoppe's answer, "actionable" seems to be devoid of meaning: everything is 'actionable'. I cannot imagine a situation where something wasn't "actionable" and then suddenly became "actionable". You can, at most, say that we're now in a better situation to take action, or that some task has become more crucial/urgent/easier now, etc. If you're looking to not rewrite the sentence into something actually meaningful, you're probably looking for the wrong thing. :-) – ShreevatsaR Feb 23 '11 at 8:00
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    It's not meaningless. There are things that we can do something about, and there are things we cannot. X is on hold because we're waiting to hear back from the client. Y, on the other hand, is actionable. Z is not actionable because it's out of our control. X / Y / Z are all "tasks" / "objectives" / etc. We are not actually taking any action on Y, but CAN. – tenfour Feb 23 '11 at 16:44
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    Is "managementese" even a correct word? – Bidella Mar 13 '12 at 3:48
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    @Bidella, no, it's a managementese word. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Mar 13 '12 at 19:03

13 Answers 13


An improvable item

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    +1 for progressable - a bit "jargonny", but in OP's context it's fine. – FumbleFingers Mar 12 '12 at 22:41
  • Yes. I agree with FumbleFingers. It's fine (but not my first choice - which is "actionable" itself - i.e., I believe there is not need for a "better" word). – Hexagon Tiling Mar 12 '12 at 23:35
  • @Hexagon Tiling: Well, OP says he's looking for "managementese" terminology. It all sounds a bit sloppy to me though. If you're running a tight ship using Critical Path Analysis, you don't just cast about to see what "actionable/progressable" jobs you have lying around - you get on with the current critical task, which the plan has already identified at any given time. – FumbleFingers Mar 13 '12 at 0:08
  • "Progressable" is the best answer here for my stated purposes. – chaos Nov 8 '13 at 22:09
  • Better late than never - glad you could progress on this ;) – mplungjan Nov 9 '13 at 5:21

I currently say an item is "blocked" or "unblocked".

How can we unblock X?

What is blocking Y?

We have too many blocking / blocked tasks.

This may work especially well in my field because the term "blocking" means in software development almost what "un-actionable" means in managementese.

Off-topic anecdote: I wondered the same as you, but my motivations were different than yours. I hate management speak for the reason @ghoppe stated - they are often an artificial cluster of meaningless words to pretentiously avoid simplicity (ok I said it much stronger). I will never forget when my non-native English speaking friend laughed when she heard, "So now what you are going to want to do here is X" instead of simply "X". Not management speak, but illustrates what lengths we're willing to take just to use more syllables.


I just realized a very common phrase in the corporate world that could easily be used for what you need: "In X's court"?

Is that task in our court?

Means, "is progress of the task currently our responsibility?". If you answer "no", you don't necessarily imply that it's anyone else's responsibility either. So, it doesn't imply whether it's actionable in general or not, but I think in usage this is a very close fit.

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  • In the third paragraph "blocking" should be replaced with "blocked". – Dan D. Mar 13 '12 at 18:04
  • "Blocking" is used as well in this context – tenfour Mar 14 '12 at 9:28
  • Maybe but the form of the word that corresponds with un-actionable is blocked. – Dan D. Mar 14 '12 at 15:14

I think, like many "managementese" buzzwords, "actionable item" is pretty much devoid of informational content. I would find a more descriptive word milestone, objective, task, or perhaps target and specifically describe the nature of the "item" and why it is "actionable".

This has now become one of our primary objectives.


This has now become a task that needs to be completed first.

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  • Treating "actionable item" as a unit doesn't really meet my needs; it's specifically "actionable" that I need to replace. – chaos Feb 22 '11 at 5:16
  • @chaos That's my point, "actionable" is devoid of content. What sort of item is not actionable? What makes the item actionable? To come up with a replacement, we need to know what makes the item "special." – ghoppe Feb 22 '11 at 5:27
  • Fair enough. Mix in an implication that the thing described suggests or invites that action should be taken, then. – chaos Feb 22 '11 at 5:43
  • an item you cannot take action on is not actionable. For example "pick up dry cleaning" is not actionable until it's ready for pick-up. – tenfour Feb 23 '11 at 17:12

I don't think there IS a better word. I don't agree that the co-existence of the managerial meaning and the legal meaning is a problem. The two meanings are in different domains, after all. Remember, if we can cope with words that are their own opposites (such as "sanction" - there's a whole thread on this as you all know), we can certaily handle the multiple disparate meanings of "actionable". However, if you INSIST on having a different word, I would go along with "progressable" as given in the answer by mplungjan above. As noted by FumbleFingers, "- a bit "jargonny", but in OP's context it's fine."

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Just throwing some ideas out, trying to maintain that management buzzword feel at the cost of grammatical accuracy (agreeing with ghoppe that once a term falls under the purview of management parlance, it starts to bleed meaning until it is an empty husk - c.f. "leverage").

"...has become one of our critical tasks."
"...is now on the critical path."
"...is an agenceable item."
"...is a scheduleable task."
"...is now prioritary."

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  • "actionable" contains the idea of option. Most of your suggestions jettison this option. For example, if something is now "actionable", it means we can have it become one of our task, if we choose, but even then it is not necessarily a "critical" task. If all you pay attention to are critical tasks, your company is going to tank. Indeed, take care of the skirmishes, and the battles will take care of themselves:) – Hexagon Tiling Mar 12 '12 at 23:30

I suggest taskable. Although it is commonly used to mean "can have tasks assigned to", the meaning of "can be assigned as a task" is not too much of a stretch.

Other possibilities (of varying quality, and not mentioned in answers so far) include targetable, realizable, resolvable, shovel ready, work ready, assignable, energizable.

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Implementable. How about Effectuate? How about encommission?

Implementable is a probable choice. To implement means to put into action. Effectuate has the same meaning as "bring about", or "bring into effect".

Although encommision is not a legitimate word, it has the ring of a buzzword and after all, buzzwords have to be coined by someone some time. The reason I used commission as the base word is because when used as a verb it denotes bringing into use.

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  • You could use effect in place of effectuate (e.g. she wanted to effect changes in government). This should not be confused with affecting changes. – Zairja Nov 2 '12 at 19:23

We can have some synonyms of Actionable like -

  • Prosecutable

  • Triable

  • Unjust

Some Research : Actionable

  • Part of Speech: adjective

  • Definition: litigable

  • Outlawed is also similar to actionable.

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  • The legal meaning is the one I'm trying to avoid. :) – chaos Feb 23 '11 at 7:30
  • In which context do you want to use it ? – Akshay Feb 23 '11 at 8:43
  • Please see the current revision of the question; I've made edits. – chaos Feb 23 '11 at 19:01
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    Yes, please do your homework (at the very least, read the question, the whole question, not just the title) before answering. – Hexagon Tiling Mar 12 '12 at 23:33

Adding, as noted in the question, the best alternative we've come up with in the original context, deployable.

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How about just calling it an "action item?"

It's just as jargon-y, and anybody who would understand "actionable item" will grasp "action item."

I figure this is an extension of my rule not use a long word when a shorter one will do ("use" instead of "utilize").

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  • The example is just an example; it's specifically the word "actionable" I'm looking to replace, not the phrase "actionable item". "Actionable item" does not appear in the actual context. – chaos Feb 24 '11 at 19:50
  • Ah. I wasn't clear on that. – bikeboy389 Feb 24 '11 at 20:48
  • In my workplaces, an "action item" has always been an item arising from the minutes of a meeting that needs to be acted upon. Not quite the same meaning. To be acted on, rather than able to be acted on. – JAM Nov 4 '12 at 2:08

First idea:

This has now become one of our predicates.


This has now become one of our engagements.

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  • Not true. As I noted in an above comment, the idea of "actionable" carries with it the idea of option. Your two ideas jettison this idea. – Hexagon Tiling Mar 12 '12 at 23:32

Since no one else has mentioned it, I will add implementable. It doesn't apply in all contexts that actionable does, but where it does apply I think its meaning is very close.

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Agreed, this is a difficult term to identify due to the overlap between business and legal meanings. Here's a few tries:

  1. 'Follow up'-able / proceed-able — Things in a state that allows action.
  2. Do-able / workable — Things capable of being done.

Given your sample sentence, I'd probably go with "workable".

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