Create actionable action items in your remote retros

Our favorite events in the scrum methodology are retrospectives because they let us focus on improvement and find out the best way to deal with it. But actually, deciding what to do with your insights can be one of the hardest parts to manage in an Agile team. Not just because is the last part of the retrospective and the team is already exhausted, because it is time to propose solutions.

But, how to make suitable solutions and make it happen? We already talk about Agile retrospectives for remote teams, but this time we are going to focus on the latest steps What to do and most importantly how to do it.

Just to remember, the steps of retrospectives are:

  • Set the Stage
  • Gather Data
  • Generate Insights
  • Decide what to do
  • Close the retrospective

One of the biggest problems with the fourth step is to discover the manner to convert those action items on real action and not just words. Many times those action items are forgotten and never get a real solution. Well, here is a real solution:

Make your retrospectives action items SMART.

SMART is an acronym of: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound and you need to implement them to your action items

Specific: let’s talk about the most common “action item” that is “we are going to improve communication”. If you think that say it is going to change the way your teams are working you are totally wrong. You are not telling what actually you are going to do. Try to change those verbs for something that implies a real action. For example, we are going to have more stand- up meetings, make those tasks quantify-tasks. It is going to help you with the next feature.

Measurable: One of the greatest ways to see if your team is actually following-up the solutions is implementing a measurable factor to your action item.

Following that example, the result will be: We are going to have at least four stand-up meetings per week. Notice the difference? Now if you only have two stand-ups per week and just achieve ten per month you already accomplish 60% of your goals.

Achievable: This factor involves a lot of how did you determinate your action items. If you found that your team is having five problems, you are not going to assign action items to every problem. Make it will result even worst. It is better if your only focus on one-two problems, it implies to focus on what really the team think is going bad. The retrospective tool from softwaredevtools allows you to vote virtually for the issue that your team considers as worst and your team will decide by itself.

That's why you are going to enact real action for important problems. Action-steps will obtain results, visible results that will encourage your team to keep improving. Focus on activities that your team actually going to achieve.

Relevant: As I said on the previous point, you are not to solve all the problems at once. This one is in the path of your company’s goals. Here you need to inspect all those problems and determine if they are important and if solve them will really help the team. Some times focus on the main problem will fall into more solved problems, because they were collateral issues by the principal problem.

Time-bound: This point is one of the most important, you need to define the time you will show real results. Leaving things to happen is one of the biggest mistakes you can do if you want to see the result you need to determinate or at least define an approaching date that pushes the team to keep doing it.

Example: We are going to have at least four stand-up meetings per week in the next six months.

Now you have a measurable aim that will help your team if the action item works if you choose right and if the problem was really solved

Here are some bonus tips:

Keep a record and Follow up:

Some teams loathe retrospectives because they think that there is no follow-up, and all you said on the last retros didn’t change anything. That’s why you need to save all that important information, something you can do is to talk on the stand-ups about what you were doing to following-up the action items. On retrospectives for confluence or Jira you can save every retro and back anytime you want.

action items retrospectives

Assign the resulting action items:

One of the best ways to maintain those action items working is assigning a member to follow the tasks. All the team needs to contribute, on retrospectives for confluence or Jira every member can decide on what action item participate:

Teams will decide on resulting action items for the issues they found, and these will be assigned an owner. To ensure follow-up, these can be turned into Jira issues or confluence tasks, and then assigned to your team members' tasks.

action items retrospectives Make them visible This will ensure that everyone is doing their part. If you assigned a member a task but also you show the team who is in charge to follow-up the action item, you can engage the team. Because now everyone has a special task and everyone are contributing to the team's improvement. Making it a very collaborative & transparent process.

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