Practical and Personal Retrospective Actions

Actions that teams define in their agile retrospectives should be practical and personal to do them successfully. Here’s why.


Retrospective actions must practical in such a way that they can be done in the next iteration. Yes done, similar as a user story is done. The team is its own customer, and defines up front what’s needed to say that an action is done.

How to make your actions practical:

  • State what should be done, be specific
  • Describe what the effect or impact of the action should be
  • Know why you are doing the action
  • Keep actions small
  • Think about how you will do the action already in the retrospective meeting
  • Do a sanity check on your actions, ensure that they make sense

If you’re unsure if a certain action will be the right thing to do, then don’t let the lizard brain stop you. Define a safe-to-fail experiment and do it!


Actions are personal because they are done by the team members. The team is committed to do them, because they see the need. And of course also because they will get the benefits.

How to keep retrospective actions personal:

  • Use the strengths and skills that team members posses for doing actions
  • Ask for volunteers for actions, don’t assign them
  • Do those actions that give you energy, make you happy
  • Stimulate team team members to pick up actions, and thanks them for doing them

Real improvement

To ensure continuous improvement from agile retrospectives actions should be practical and personal. Retrospectives look at things that have happened recently (in the last iteration). These are real things, something the team has experienced. It may be something that went above expectation, and that they would like to reuse in the next iteration. Or something that didn’t go that well, and that they do not want to happen again.

Teams do retrospectives to identify, define, and use their experiences, to learn and improve continuously. With practical and personal retrospective actions teams increase the chance that their retrospective actions get done.

How do you keep your retrospective actions practical and personal?

Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

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