The Importance of Action Points

RunActions speak louder than words.

A trap that many fall into when it comes to inspecting and adapting is only talking about what could be done and not taking the next step to decide what will be done. Talk is cheap, actions points can help to put your money where your mouth is.

Here are 10 ways to make sure action points get actioned.

1. Record Action Points

It’s not enough to just say you’re going to do something. Really commit by writing it down and recording it. Action Points can be written as a list or written on post-it notes. The main thing is that they are recorded and not lost.

2. Clear and Concise Action Points

Express the action points in as few words as possible. This will make them more memorable and hence more likely to be done. If writing on post-it notes it will mean you can write bigger, which will make the action more visible. In a list, if each action point is concise then the list will be shorter and this will increase the chance of people reading through it. It’s important, however, that you don’t make the action point so concise that it no longer makes sense or misses critical information. Think about the next time you’re going to read the action point – are you sure you’ll still remember what it was about?

3. Actionable Action Points

Remember that action points are an action, not a problem or an output. An action point should address a problem and an action point should usually have an output in mind (and possibly even recorded with the action point) but the key thing to record is what needs to be done. A good way to ensure your action point is actionable is to make sure it includes a verb.

4. Completable Action Points

Like with user stories, it should be clear when an action point is done. Is a single action enough or does it need to be followed up until a certain result is achieved? This should be clear right from when the action point is written. Action points that sit around for months, with no-one really being clear whether they are done, don’t help anyone. If an action point seems too big to be concisely recorded you may want to consider breaking it down into smaller pieces. What is the very next action that needs to be completed to get things moving? In this case you just need to make sure that a recorded output of the action point is that the next action is reassessed.

5. Action Point Ownership

Make someone responsible for ensuring that the action point is completed. In some cases this might not be the person doing the actual work, but the person who will follow up and report back on progress. This person will also be responsible for triggering any follow on actions and either dealing with or raising any blockers that arise related to the action point. Ideally the person who is assigned the action point will be present when the action point is created so that they have a full understanding of why it was created and they agree to actively own it.

6. Action Point Timeframe

It’s helpful for everyone if the expected timeframe for the completion of the action point is clear from the start. It helps the owner know how urgently they need to get onto it and it helps others know when they can expect results. As a scrum master this can help indicate whether you need to chase up or offer help to the action point owner.

7. Visible Action Points

Action points have the greatest chance of getting done if they are constantly visible to everyone. If action points are visible then owners are more likely to remember to do them. My personal preference is as post-its in a special lane at the bottom of the scrum board. But the main thing is that everyone can see how many action points are pending, who is responsible for them (and which ones they are responsible for) and whether they are moving.

8. Review Action Point

Progress Regularly Action point progress should be reviewed regularly. How regularly will depend on what the action points relate to. Any action points from the retrospective could be reviewed at the next retrospective or even at the daily stand up if they were indicated as more urgent. Regularly reviewing action points will help identify if there are things getting in the way of their completion. It is important to deal with these action point blockers. If the owner doesn’t have the time or skills to complete it after all, then ownership needs to be transferred elsewhere. If additional resources are needed to complete If circumstances have changed and the action point is no longer relevant, then it should be removed. (Be careful not to use this as an excuse to avoid things that are ‘too hard’ though!)

9. Valuable Action Points

Be careful not to go too action point crazy. People still have work to do and working on action points can get in the way so you need to make sure that action points are valuable so that their time is used effectively. Another reason not to have too many action points is that is dilutes focus and makes action points less visible in the crowd. Limit yourself to actioning items for the most important issues. Prioritize action points and identify where the most value can be obtained.

10. Review Results

For many action points it may not be immediately apparent whether the action has truly resolved the original issue. The action is probably an implementation of the team’s predicted solution. In this case it can be good to keep the action point in a holding bay and at a later point in time review whether the intended benefits were actually achieved. This can help you to reflect on whether your action points are generally well-formed and perhaps guide you on how to improve your action points for the future. If the action point hasn’t delivered the desired results you may want to consider whether the issue requires further action.

Related Books:


John Wade
Why SMART Goals
May Be Dumb

Tom Terwilliger
Getting Things Done

David Allen
Ready for Anything

David Allen

Categories: Continuous Improvement

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