Action Items are “discrete tasks to be accomplished by the team.” Notice the word accomplished is part of the definition? That means your Action Items should be written in such a way that encourages follow-through.
There are a few examples of poorly written Action Items:
|Action Item||What’s Wrong|
|Talk with our Product Owner more frequently||How frequently will you speak with the Product Owner?|
|Experiment with Continuous Integration||How will you know when this is done? What is the definition of success?|
|Bring food to our next Sprint Planning meeting||What food will we bring? How much? Who will bring the food?|
In fact, each of these Action Items could be improved if they followed the SMART Goal format. Here’s what SMART stands for:
Specific – what are you going to do and who will be doing it?
Measurable – how can you quantify progress?
Achievable – can you actually accomplish this?
Relevant – does it matter? will it fix the problem?
Time Based – when will it be done?
One way to ensure your Action Items are SMART is to use a template. I learned this template from Manuel Küblböck.
In order to <reach a goal>
we will <do an action>
before <a point in time>.
We know that we were successful when <measure a result>.
Note that the template above is not one-size-fits-all. Sometimes you will find it easier to write your Action Items in a different way, while still being SMART about them.
With that in mind, let’s rewrite the Action Items from the beginning of the post in a SMART way:
|Original Action Item||SMART Action Item|
|Talk with our Product Owner more frequently||In order to make sure we are building the right thing throughout the sprint at least one person on the team will speak with the Product Owner on a daily basis.|
|Experiment with Continuous Integration||In order to release our product on a more frequent basis|
we will setup a continuous integration server
before the end of the next sprint.
We will know that we were successful when commits to the code are automatically pushed to the continuous integration server.
|Bring food to our next Sprint Planning meeting||In order to increase engagement in our Sprint Planning meetings|
Tanya will bring a dozen doughnuts to our next Sprint Planning Meeting.
It goes without saying, but — taking the time to write your Action Items in this way takes time. That’s okay. The payoff is well worth it!