In the quest to deliver customer values better, faster, and more efficiently, agile teams work to improve continually. The retrospective is commonly used to identify these opportunities, but they can occur anytime.
Improvements take many forms, but they all have one thing in common -- they require a change of behavior. Sometimes, these behavioral changes require some planning and thought; other times, the idea gets hatched fully formed when identified. In either case, it is necessary to follow up.
Most people commonly refer to these follow-up items as “action items.” Action items without follow-up waste everyone’s time. Why discuss improvements and develop ideas if you can’t execute them? Thus, this article's central theme is ensuring that all ideas worth pursuing must get the attention they deserve.
Here is a list of steps.
Assign ownership of each action item. Make sure that someone is responsible for each action item. The assigned individual need not be the only one to take action. In fact, there could be cases in which this person is only a facilitator. However, it is essential that one (and only one) person take ownership of the item, which comes with the responsibility to ensure timely actions.
Set a deadline for each action item. This will help to keep the action items on track. Deadlines may even be time frames such as “next week,” but actions languish in the “low-priority” work queue without a time component. If an idea takes considerable effort or is a long shot to bear fruit, extend the time frame, but don’t skip it. It’s better to decide not to pursue the item at all.
Track the progress of each action item. There are so many tools available to track action items. It’s likely that you already use one of them. It could be a spreadsheet, Trello, Jira, Monday, Teams, or Tracker. Whatever you use, make sure you can add comments about progress as you check in.
Review action items regularly. There are several venues for action item progress reports. You may do this in daily stand-ups or at the beginning of a retrospective (don’t do it at the end, or you will run out of time). Whatever option you choose, don’t leave it to chance that action items will get the attention they deserve.
Agile professionals associated with the team (whether a member or advisor) must take ultimate ownership of ensuring action items have the opportunity to make a difference. Continuous improvement lives in the heart and soul of Agile practice, and action items are the mode for ensuring that progress gets made. If the necessary systems and procedures still need to be implemented to ensure consistent follow-up, make it so!