Why You Should Erase Your Team’s Action Items.

Steven Solomon
May 4, 2018 · 2 min read
Photo by Kim Gorga on Unsplash

I am a member of an agile team. Every Friday afternoon we hold a retrospective. My team members grab a beer or their favorite soft drink, and huddle around a whiteboard with markers and sticky notes. We spend an hour reflecting on the progress of that week and generating action items to improve the next week. The actions are written on a whiteboard in our workspace. We review them before standup each morning.

As the week goes by, some action items don’t get completed. This means they stay on the board. If no one erases them, they can be there for weeks. Eventually I have enough of this and I act.

I tell my team, “I’m going to erase the unfinished items”.

“What?” Exclaims the PM

“No! We need them.” yelps an engineer.

I erase them despite the protests.

I want my team to celebrate their progress. In order to celebrate, they need to see progress. A long list of unfinished actions robs them of the ability to see that progress. So I erase the actions. While this is troubling at first, team members grow accustomed to this thinking. Eventually, I hear them echo the mantra…

If an action is truly important, it will come back.

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