Plan of Action

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When retrospective actions are lacking clear executable paths (are too tied to goals)

Length of time:

Approximately 40 minutes

Short Description:

To solve these problems, ask the team to generate all actions in a specific format, as shown below.

Long-term goal: Have test automation on acceptance-test level

Now-Action: Pete will automate one test using Fit

This format helps the team consider a long-term goal for every action. It also helps them create very concrete actions to move the team a step closer to the long-term goal.


Index cards, flipchart/whiteboard, pens


The first step in action generation is to have every team member individually generate as many actions as possible. Every action is written in the established format (goal and now-action) and written on an index card. This activity is timeboxed to about ten minutes.

After the individual actions are generated, we divide the group into pairs. The individuals in each pair explain each other’s actions to each other. The pair selects the most important actions out of their combined actions, trying to limit the total to a handful of actions, for example five. In this phase they can, of course, generate new actions. This activity is also timeboxed, though it’s often finished before the end of the allotted time.

Next, the pairs join with another pair to form groups of four and repeat the process, this time sharing only the most important actions they selected from the previous activity. The foursome further pares down the chosen actions, to for example four. This process continues until there is a whole team discussion. At that point the team selects the actions that have slowly emerged to be the most important.

At the end of the selection process, write all the actions on one flipchart sheet and hand it over to one of the team members. This sheet is then hung in the team’s workspace as a visual reminder. Those actions not selected can be discarded.

For example, in a retrospective with eight people, the following steps would be taken:

  * 10 min – Individual action generation.
  * 10 min – Pairs select the top five of their shared actions
  * 10 min – Groups of four select the top four of their ten shared actions
  * 10 min – The whole group selects the top three of their eight shared actions

The process is based on having team sizes that are a multiple of two; however, with some creativity it works for any size group. It might mean that in the first step there is one group of three or in the second step one group of six and one group of four. (The calculations did give me and my co-facilitator a headache in a group of around forty.) The advantage of this action generation technique is that it combines individual action generation with group action generation. It then slowly, step-by-step, creates consensus on the actions. Everyone tends to stay involved in the process mostly because they have all been involved in the process from the beginning. Also by slowly increasing the group sizes, the more silent personalities tend not to be excluded.

While we generate as many actions as we can, we ultimately select only a few, typically three, to be done in the next sprint. Selecting too many actions is a common mistake in action planning. The effect is a loss of focus and a huge amount of time spent on tracking the actions.


Modified and reproduced with kind permission of Bas Vodde from an article he posted on the Scrum Alliance website here