Why you should create action items
Be careful - Actions are not the same as goals: From the beginning, you should keep in mind that actions and goals are not the same thing.
Once you have identified and defined a pain point in your retrospective, you need to solve it. To do this, you will set a goal. You may use the SMART formula, as goals should be specific, measurable, appealing, realistic and terminated. You should also make sure that you set the right kind of goal (learning vs. performance goal).
Learn more about this topic in our blog article on “goals that truly bring your teams forward”.
At first, it doesn't matter how the goal will be achieved, and that would be the point at which the action items come into play. Now, you have to think about action items that can be implemented in order to reach the goal step by step.
Characteristics of good action items
Some of the things that apply to well-defined goals can also be applied to action items. For example, measures should be formulated as precisely as possible, just like goals. However, action items shouldn't be too ambitious. Even small measures, e.g. the recording of a follow-up meeting or the creation of a chat room on a certain topic, can bring significant improvements. A measure can also serve as a small experiment. If not everyone is convinced that the measure will be successful, you can limit it to a certain period of time. As long as nothing explicitly speaks against this action item, the experiment is often worthwhile.
Check our blog article for more tips and examples on good measures from retrospectives.
How to create meaningful action items
After collecting and prioritizing, it's time to brainstorm the measures.
While you are welcome to capture ideas during the first half of the retro, it is only after prioritization that specific actions are defined. This keeps the structure of your retro and also facilitates the time boxing.
If you can't immediately think of an action item for a topic, there are different methods e.g. "The 5 Why?" or the "Impact-Effort Matrix", which you can use together as a team. Echometer also offers whiteboard templates, to brainstorming action plans with minimal preparation.
Not only will you come up with good measures, but it will also bring more interactivity to your retro. Brainstorming measures can also be moved to breakout sessions if you run out of time in your retro.
How to work successfully with your action items
You have created the action points, but now what? Simply creating a measure is not enough. Now you need to implement the action item. In addition, you shouldn't forget to evaluate how effective the measure was. As pre-requisite, you should consider the following points:
Define a few, prioritized action items
This point is almost self-explanatory. The more measures you create, the more difficult it is to keep track of which measures are completed and which are still running. Therefore, it is an advantage not to have too many action items at once. It helps if you focus on the topics that got the most votes.
Establish a review for action items
In order to keep track of the measures, it makes sense to introduce a regular review during your sprint. Here you can briefly evaluate the status of the individual action items. The retro is a good time for this, but you can also hold an extra meeting for this if necessary.
One responsible person for each action item
For each measure there should be one person who is responsible for it. This person has the overview and can then also present the current progress in the action item review.
If you want 17 more tips for great good action items, check out our free eBook.
Do you want to surprise your team with new, creative retro methods? 🤩
Join our “Retrospective's Weekly” and receive a new set of retro questions every two weeks (you can unsubscribe at any time):