Lesson 3: How to increase accountability in a (remote) team

Ready for more?

Then my training, Run Retrospective like a Pro, is exactly what you need.

Learn how you lead your team from 😕 okay to 🤩 great with agile retrospectives.

View the full course

Do you want to master Retrospectives?

Then check out my full Retrospectives course.

Video Transcript

This is the third and final lesson of the free Retrospective training that will help you prevent retrospectives from becoming boring and less effective.

In today's lesson, you will learn an important part of what's needed to have high accountability in any team, wherever they work from. The office, from home, hybrid, or basically anywhere in the world.

You will learn three ways to increase accountability in remote or in-person teams, and you will learn one of the Seven Laws of Engaging Retrospectives.

This will help you build on the things you learned in the previous lesson about keeping your team engaged.

So let's get started.

Make Work Progress More Visible

There are many different ways to increase accountability in a team, but the one way that works especially well for any team is to make work progress more visible.

You probably have already experimented with making work progress more visible, so that team members can see what needs to be done and what has been accomplished with tools like Jira, Trello, or maybe even a physical whiteboard. This helps to keep everyone on track and accountable for their own work.

But most team leads, coaches, and facilitators find accountability difficult with remote teams, because they're not really sure if agreed action items are being worked on. So let's have a look at three ways to make work progress more visible, and create high accountability in remote teams.

Create an improvement board

The first thing to do is ensure your team has an improvement board. This board makes action items visible so that every team member can see what needs to be done and what has been accomplished regarding improving as a team.

There are many different ways to set up an improvement board, but the important thing is that everyone on the team can see it, knows how to use it, and get's reminded about it frequently.

The best way to do this is through your project management tool. Tag or label action items coming out of retrospectives so that they are easy to track. You can break the actions down using my action items template that you can find in the Atomic Habits retrospective.

Then, plan the actions just as you would with other tasks and priorities. This allows you to block the time needed to work on the improvements for your team. You can link most project management tools like Jira, Monday.com, and ClickUp to Miro boards. This makes it easy to save your Retrospective items to those tools automatically while running your retrospective.

If you don't have a project management tool, you can use a Google Sheet or Slack thread. The important thing is that everyone knows where to find the actions and how it works.

Action Owner

Once you have that, the second thing to make progress more visible is ensuring an owner for every action item.

You want this person to volunteer because this will also increase overall accountability. Often, asking for a volunteer during the retrospective is enough because these are the action items the team created themselves. But if you can't find a volunteer, ask your team if the action item is a priority right now. If it's not, that's also fine. Park the action for later, and focus on actions you can solve today.

The action item owner is responsible for ensuring that it gets done, but doesn't have to do all the work themself. Ask the rest of the team who can help the owner, but make sure that the owner knows they should update the team on their progress. This will help to keep everyone accountable and focused on improving as a team.

Ask the owner to break down the action items into smaller tasks, and ask them to ensure that the tasks can be completed in a day or less. This is a crucial part of making progress more visible. Breaking down big chunks of work allows you to see progress made more frequently, which will help keep everyone accountable and engaged. And the feeling of completing tasks daily is a strong motivator.

Do a daily check-in

And the cherry on the top to make your progress visible are daily check-ins.

Now you might be thinking, oh no, not daily check-ins, but these check-ins are probably different than the ones you are thinking of.

Daily check-ins are super powerful in tracking the progress of the retrospective action items and have high accountability in your team. But real-time, synchronous check-ins like Daily Scrums can really disrupt your productivity and flexibility.

So the check-in that I recommend you do is an asynchronous daily check-in. This is an event where everyone on the team can answer three questions daily before a specific time.

  • What did you work on today?
  • What are you working on tomorrow?
  • Do you need help with anything?

Yes, these are the proven Daily Scrum questions, but the big difference is that you will ask them via Slack, a Google Doc, or any other tool that everyone on the team can work on together simultaneously. The check-in should take no more than five minutes to complete, and it's a great way to keep everyone accountable for their work and focused on the team's goal.

You can use it for your usual daily tasks and priorities, combined with the action items that come out of the retrospective.

The three questions will help everyone in the team reflect on their day, set priorities for tomorrow, and spot opportunities how to help teammates without the hassle of a fixed, real-time meeting.

If your team is all in the same timezone, then the end of a workday is often the best time to do this event. And even if this is an asynchronous activity, you still want to create a calendar invite in your team's calendars. This way, it becomes easier for everyone to remember it, build this new habit, and hold each other accountable.

The important thing is that everyone knows where to find the information, and it's easy to update. So write down instructions for your team in the calendar event's description.

So those are three ways to increase accountability in any (remote) team: make work progress more visible, create an improvement board, and do a daily check-in.

This will help you increase accountability in any team and make sure that your team keeps improving over time, even after running Retros countless times.

The Seven Laws of Engaging Retrospectives

Now, if you want to have high accountability during the retro you will love the seven laws of engaging retrospectives.

The seven laws are a framework that helps you prepare for facilitating your next retro, and are also a way to reflect after running a retro. You can even use it to ask for feedback from your teammates after facilitating.

And law number one is to Set Expectations. You score high for this law if the session aligned with the team's goals, and everyone always knew what to do.

You can achieve this by being very clear about the objectives of the retrospective before it starts. Make sure everyone knows why you're doing the retrospective and what you hope to achieve at the end of the session. This way, you can align the retro's goal with the personal goals of your teammates. The more aligned everything is, the more engaged everyone will be during the retro.

A low score for this law means that the session wasted your team's time because there was no alignment or confusion about what to do. This will lead to low accountability.

If you want to learn more in-depth about this law and how to prepare and run retrospectives with high accountability, then have a look at my Run Retrospectives like a Pro course.

Next steps

Now with everything you learned in these three lessons and the Atomic Habits Miro template, you are ready to keep running engaging retrospectives.

In lesson one, you learned how to go from boring to engaging retrospectives. In lesson two, how to keep your hybrid team engaged. And this final lesson helped you to take a step toward high accountability for any team.

Retrospectives are a proven way to build healthy team habits and break bad ones. And being able to design and run great retrospectives is a superpower that will allow you to help yourself and your team be more productive, and will advance your career.

I have created the perfect companion to what you have just learned in my Run Retrospectives like a Pro course. The course includes eight videos to help you become a pro in facilitating retrospectives.

  • You will learn how to prepare and design highly effective retrospectives. First the foundations, then the agenda, and then the best exercises to achieve your team's goals.
  • You will learn how to create a library of amazing Miro templates that will help you save time, the next time you want to run your retrospective.
  • You will learn all the Seven Laws of Engaging Retrospectives, which will help you not only become a better retrospective facilitator, but a better facilitator for any meeting.
  • You will learn how to make more parts of your retrospective asynchronous so that you can better fit your team's hybrid way of working.
  • And on top of that, you will get more than ten ready-to-copy Miro templates, with retrospectives that I designed specifically for all of the five stages your team can be in. They all have detailed instructions for every exercise and will save you hours of preparation time.

Run Retrospectives like a Pro will make you one of the most invaluable assets at work. You will not only help your team be more productive but have more fun and be more engaged at the same time. This will lead to better job opportunities.

Read more and signup for the Run Retrospectives like Pro course below this video.

But before you make sure that you have practiced with the exercises and Miro template of this free course. When you learn by doing, you will grasp what you have learned way better, and with that what the power of retrospectives is.

If you don't, you will forget what you have learned, and you have wasted your time watching this course.

And then, if you have done all that, click the link to sign up for the full Run Retrospectives like a Pro course.

Do you want to master Retrospectives?

Then check out my full Retrospectives course.