The answer is Action Points! In general terms, the purpose of a Retrospective is to collectively think about how work can be improved in the future. The result is a list of concrete actions that the team can implement starting with the next sprint or project. And that's Action Points!
What are Action Points in a meeting?
It's a good practice to have some actionable points after each retrospective, something you can work on in the nearest future. Action Points are a list of concrete improvements that the team can implement in the next sprint. The term "concrete improvements" means that we do not expect wishes but specific and feasible actions. For instance, instead of declaring "we want to do more experiments" (a wish), it is better to say "in the next sprint, we are going to make a specific experiment in a specific process" (an actual action possible to be implemented in one sprint).
What pushes the project forward? Continuous improvement!
To ensure continuous improvement, the backlog for a future sprint (or the work plan for the next iteration, if you don't use Scrum methodology) should include an action plan to improve at least one issue identified in a retrospective of the previous sprint. Therefore, a retrospective must result in an actionable improvement plan for the next sprint.
What do we mean by improvement?
An improvement can be a tweak to a feature, a new tool to enhance communication in a team, or... a conversation that affects the team's work. In short, an improvement is anything that increases the value of a product.
How to manage Action Points? What is the easiest way to do it?
Ask the question: how will we know we have closed the action item? How will we verify this? Why not just try to find an owner of each action item? If something is really important to the team, it should be easy to find a person who can keep an eye on it. You’ve probably heard about the ‘dot voting’ exercise, haven’t you? Well, this practice cuts both ways. It helps prioritize actions, but some ideas might never surface because of fewer votes.
Remember to select the owners of specific tasks together with the team members. Those owners will be the ones who will make sure that the actions take place (they do not necessarily have to implement them themselves). So, you and a team created some action points, found owners, made some commitments.
Keep all the items in one place. Make them as transparent and visible as possible. It's quite useful to start some retros by presenting the previous board and checking the progress of particular tasks.