How you facilitate a retrospective impacts the success for a retrospective. Inexperienced facilitators often don’t know how best to achieve the Decide What to Do part of a retrospective, often resulting in action items too broad, or too difficult to actually achieve. Revisiting them next time results in frustration as the team hasn’t made any progress on them.

Failed Pottery

Photo taken from Opheliates Flickr stream under the Creative Commons Licence

What you can do about it?
Sumeet writes about using SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Timeboxed) to help focus forming better action items. He also writes about giving them an owner and a time frame. I will often use this to guide the discussion – “Is this achievable in two weeks time? How can we break this down to ensure we make some progress? Does everyone understand what you need to do to call this item complete?”

I also like Bas’ Plan of Action approach, linking short term actions with long term goals – allowing people to break down large changes into more achievable ones, or to help align short term tasks with longer, more strategic goals.

As a facilitator, be aware that how you deal with the last part of the retrospective will influence the result, for better or worse. Learn how to facilitate the group towards something more likely to result in an observable change.