I have always enjoyed retrospectives given my analytical nature. Retrospectives are essential tools that help teams evaluate where they currently are and where they are headed. They provide an outlet for the team to review, analyze and communicate past successes or struggles. Doing so not only improves the overall rapport of the team, but also the communication skills of each individual contributor. I have experienced a variety of retrospectives across several different teams and have even ran them as the team’s scrum master. Yes, I enjoy retrospectives.

Most of my retrospective experiences have been positive, in the sense that the team leaves with a sense of accomplishment. The team would gather together, thoroughly reflect upon the ups and downs of the past sprint, and even extract the core themes we would like to focus on. However, despite the productive meeting itself, the retrospectives have consistently fallen short in another aspect: the action items. Action items are the list of things the team has agreed upon to tackle before the next retrospective. Failing to complete the action items have repeatedly occured during my previous four teams, across both Twitter and Amazon.

Include tests for each check-in.

Ensure code coverage stays about 80%.

Establish more product focus.

We never consistently followed through with those planned action items, only to revive them again in the next retrospective.

Perhaps we need to better divvy up the responsibilities of the action items.

Perhaps we need to shorten the duration between retrospectives in order to keep those action items fresh in ours minds.

Perhaps we need to create realistic actions items. Action items in which the team has capabilities or the capacity to accomplish.

The follow through is essential to making these retrospectives meetings actually productive. Otherwise, the team ends up jogging in place and talking in circles without forward progress.