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To take or not to take [an action item]?

Mar 08, 2019 Lina Tools 0 comments

Taking decisions

The last time I joined a meeting as an observer to provide external feedback, I noticed a very typical situation. No one took seriously the decisions taken at the previous meeting. At the end of the current one a lot of new decisions were agreed upon, and most probably were going to be forgotten till the next meeting. Everyone thinks it is someone else’s job to execute on the decision. But who exactly? Or the other case – the meetings are endless discussions with the same content over and over again… We should change, we should improve, and next time the same…

Have you experienced situations like this?

Move from Deciding to Doing

One of the challenges is how to turn discussions into decisions and decisions into actionable items. Let me take the Sprint Retrospective as an example for a meeting, where the desired outcome is a plan for improvement to be enacted during the next Sprint. Although the Scrum team can improve at any time, the Sprint Retrospective provides a formal opportunity to inspect and adapt the whole process. But in some teams improvement is slow and inefficient. There is a need for a change, but the change is so big that it scares and paralyzes people. They just don’t know where to start, or don’t feel empowered and strong enough as a team to do the big change that they see ahead.

My advise in such cases: start now with what is in your control, don’t wait for a change from outside. Try to make things happen, not to make them perfect. Start with small steps, don’t wait for a big bang.

Write Down the Actions

Here are a few additional small steps that help teams execute on decisions:

  • When you agree to an action, write it down – either in the system you are using, or in any other format suitable for the team.
  • Ask for a volunteer to take it, so that there is at least one person responsible for making it happen, and agree on a timeline. Formalising the action items, even in a lean way, more or less guarantees that at least someone will pay attention at it.
  • Make sure that all taken action items are visible to the whole team and they won’t be forgotten.  This way improvements will happen faster.

Some Standardization Reduces Waste

Following a certain template can support the team in tracking and following up on all action items.

The action items pad has evolved from our practice as one of the possible templates, which you can use, since it will remind you for basic information required.

You can keep the action items list on the team board so that it is visible, and don’t forget to bring it back to the next meeting, so that the team can check the progress and decide on next steps.

Agile Box Action Item LIst

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