You have to start changing something the way your team comes up with actions if you observe the following:
- Your team is having the same discussions over and over again,
- Most of the communication is spitting in the ocean
- The retrospective actions are put on ice
- The improvements are half-baked
- People keep on talking about decisions and not actual actions
- No true commitments are made
- You, as an agilist, lose a lot of energy and time due to that
This is happening because people do not commit to:
- superficial challenges,
-things that are out of their control,
- and too broad statements which do not contain strict small steps.
Here is a simple but powerful way to get your team to devise actions they can easily commit to and make meaningful improvements.
You might have heard of the robust approach of "Circle and Soup." This format helps a team explore the phrase: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."
Through this approach, the group identifies issues and circumstances that are manageable and controllable, and energy is directed toward improving them.
Additionally, it identifies what factors/variables are beyond their control so that they can park their worries and use their energy effectively.
The "Circle and Soup" format consists of three circles:
- Things that fall into our control, like improving the daily standup format,
- Things we can influence, like enhancing communication with another team,
- Things that are out of our control, like the company's overall culture.
Now, let's say you want to come up with specific, doable and measurable actions after your retro or discussion.
The steps to take should be the following:
1. Whether you are doing a classic Retrospective, a brainstorming session, or other exercises, ensure the ideas you generate are written down by your team or you.
Action points that will be generated later on should be based on these written ideas.
2. Most of the action items that will be generated at first will be decisions. Acknowledge the difference between Action Items and Decisions.
Decisions are actions we commit to as a team for a long recurring period.
Example: "Starting from the next sprint we are going to do peer code reviews to facilitate knowledge sharing and increase code quality."
Action items are specific measurable assignments with clear outcomes that can be executed once and have a long-term effect.
Example: "We will integrate this X workflow next week to ensure our project and work are transparent and trackable."
3. Acknowledge the nature of the decisions that are required to be addressed. Can they all be handled by your team?
Run the "Circle and Soup" exercise to put all their decisions in the appropriate circles to identify who controls the identified issues as a team.
Make sure the team focuses on the problems they can solve, not bringing up high-level problems as an excuse.
4. Now concentrate on the decisions that lay in the first circle, i.e., things we can control, and ask them to make the decisions specific using the SMART model.
SMART stands for:
5. If there are too many, you can use majority voting to prioritize the list and decide on the owners of the improvements. NOTE: owner is not necessarily the responsible person but the one who is accountable and can have the last yes/no in case of need.
6. Add those actions to your improvement plan.
Think of this plan as your Improvement Backlog. One that you have thought about, researched, discussed, written, refined, approved, planned, realized, reviewed, and reflected on. It should be the sum of all the improvement actions your team defined during these discussions.
7. Make sure Action Items are visible. Those can be added to the Sprint Backlog.
Make sure high-level problems reach management's attention.
Start the next Retrospective by checking your Action Items and Decisions progress.
Now you have defined action items that will lead to the desired outcomes.
Make a small step forward.
Once you have started, the goal seems achievable.
Hope you found it helpful. 🙂
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