By Moye Balogun
In Agile, action items are changes a team plans to enact for future sprints. Action items are a crucial part of closing an Agile retrospective and are often considered the best way to address a team’s challenges and obstacles (Rose). Talking about obstacles in generic terms is very easy. The true challenge is breaking down the solution to the problem into actions that each member of the team can take on (Rose). It is important that every team member is assigned to an action item. This can be done by having one person listed as the “action owner” of each action item (Rose). The facilitator should do this by asking for volunteers. Since Agile stresses self-organization in teams, neither the facilitator, the scrum master, or the project manager should be assigning action owners (Rose).
Though each member can have more than one action item, it is important that everyone has at least one (Rose). Action items with no one assigned to them should not be taken as a sign the team lazily does not want to do more work, but rather, be an indicator that the group does not understand that action (Rose). This is where the facilitator would step in to get the team to further discuss how the action can be implemented.
Another key part of finishing a retrospective is positivity. Many Agile retrospective experts adhere to the notion that ending a retrospective on a positive note will result in more productivity for the team. One way positivity can be fostered is through team exercises. Philip Rogers, one of the Scrum Masters at NPR, likes to break down his team into groups of two and asks each group to make a “funny poster” based on the action items they are assigned to (Moon). The groups will each create a title, select an image, and write an “often humorous description,” resulting in an activity that promotes teamwork and helps team members get a better understanding of the action item (Moon). Though it is seemingly not a very complex action item, one of Philp Rogers’ teams thought working in pairs was a task the group needed to get better at. The poster they made for this action item was:
In this activity, humor is encouraged because it makes the action item more memorable and the atmosphere concluding the retrospective a light-hearted one. The activity is fully completed when all of the group’s posters are printed out and displayed where the entire team can see them as a reminder (Rogers).
Another activity that creates a positive environment is what Agile retrospective expert, Luís Gonçalves, likes to call Agile Retrospective Appreciations. In this exercise, the team will be organized into a semi-circle with the other half of the circle made up of one chair – known as the “Central Chair” (Gonçalves). One by one, team members will volunteer to sit in the Central Chair and have their teammates tell them what they appreciated about the contributions they made to the sprint (Gonçalves). The actual statement of appreciation can be formatted by saying two things the person did that helped the group and one thing the team member would like to see the person do more of (Gonçalves). It is important that this activity is done in “an environment of respect, authenticity, and profound listening” (Gonçalves).
Gonçalves, Luís. “AGILE RETROSPECTIVE APPRECIATIONS EXERCISE TO CLOSE YOUR RETROSPECTIVE.” Luís Gonçalves, 8 Apr. 2017, luis-goncalves.com/agile-retrospective-appreciations/.
Moon, Lauren. “5 Steps To Better Agile Retrospectives.” Across The Board, 26 Aug. 2015, blog.trello.com/the-5-steps-to-better-team-retrospectives.
Rogers, Philip. “Retrospective Techniques for Coaches, Scrum Masters, and Other Facilitators.” Trello, 1 Apr. 2015, trello.com/c/fgfFlcaO/32-motivational-poster.
Rose, Doug. “Follow up on Actions Items.” Lynda.com - from LinkedIn, 4 Feb. 2016, www.lynda.com/Business-Skills-tutorials/Follow-up-actions-items/175961/468256-4.html.