Get agreement on exactly what you mean, how you will do it and what the outcome will look like.
In one retrospective a team agreed that the number one thing that needed to change was unit testing. There were no unit tests and everyone thought automated unit testing would help, so they agreed to start doing it. But when they talked about specifics it transpired that everyone had different ideas of what ‘automated unit testing' meant and how to do it.
While the team needs to focus on a few specifics and changes at a time the team manager needs to take a broader view. They need to be conscious of what issues need to be beyond scope and which are can now be tackled. Mangers need to work a step ahead of the team, preparing the ground for future.
When a team holds a retrospective, and when it implements changes and improvements, it should be encouraged to present its findings to a wider audience. Not only does this spread the learning but it builds trust, helps reduce the fear of retrospectives and demonstrates they can, and do, work.
The hallmark of a true Agile team is that it is learning and changing but retrospectives are not the only tool for change. Retrospectives are an advanced tool and like all advanced tools you can't just pick them up and expect instant results. Other tools can help learning and build towards the goal of effective retrospectives.
About the Author
Allan Kelly is a London-based consultant and interim manager specializing in Agile adoption. His first book, "Changing Software Development: Learning to be Agile" was recently published by John Wiley amp; Sons. He is a qualified Product Manager and Project Manager, and holds a BSc in computing and an MBA in management.