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Starfish Retrospective

Those that are looking for an easy way to focus on actions and behaviors in the sprint, might look to our pointed, underwater friend, the starfish. ⭐🐟  Similar to the points of a starfish, this agile retrospective template is named for its five points of discussion, where teams can articulate what to start doing, stop doing, keep doing, do more of, and do less of before the next sprint.

Use the starfish retrospective when you want to…

Reveal both the successes and challenges experienced by a team.


Enable team members to look at the projects, activities, or actions of the business and evaluate what needs more energy and resources, versus what needs less to drive continuous improvement.

How it works

Before the retrospective meeting starts, the facilitator or product owner should select the Starfish technique from Retrium's retrospective exercise toolkit. ⭐🐟 Each column - or arm of the starfish - represents a single topic point of discussion:

  • Keep Doing
  • Actions the team are doing well and are valuable.
  • Less Of
  • Actions being done that are beginning to hold less value and be done less frequently.
  • More Off
  • Actions of value being done currently that need to be done more.
  • Stop Doing
  • Actions that either no longer bring value or are getting in the way and need to be stopped altogether.
  • Start Doing
  • A new idea to bring value or one that has worked in the past.

    Setting the Stage

    In the first step of any group activity, make sure to go over the guidelines and ensure the entire team has a shared understanding of how the retrospective format works. Explain how long the retrospective will last by creating a timebox (30-60 minutes, depending on the size of the team). Once everyone understands the expectations, they are ready to retrospect.


    The timebox for this first phase should last between 10-15 minutes. During this period of time, participants should consider the previous sprint or experience and think about processes and ideas that they'd like to keep doing, start doing, stop doing, do more of, and do less. Each question, comment, or idea should be written onto its own note.

    While brainstorming, participants should keep their ideas private either by using personal notes or a system that obscures the ideas during this phase.🤫 (Psst! We know a retrospective tool that does this really well.) Team members place their ideas within each section. Keeping ideas private during this stage helps prevent groupthink and ensures that team members aren't swayed by seeing the opinions of others.


    Once everyone on the team has finished creating their notes and/or the timebox has ended, it is time for the big reveal. Depending on the circumstances of the sprint, you may have a lot of notes. 😨 If so, don't be overwhelmed – this is actually great news! It means that the team has a lot of ideas on how to improve. And, odds are, a few of the notes will cover similar topics. So, as a starting point, you can look for trends, patterns, popular opinions, and differing opinions and then group notes that contain related (or even identical) ideas into logical themes. This way you can still cover everyone's topic and concerns without going over every individual note.

    Dot Voting

    Discussions can be the cream filling to the retrospective pie, 🥧 but it can be challenging to reach the filling. Sometimes discussion topics are obvious but, other times...not so much. If there are several similar notes on meeting schedules, for example, then your team has an obvious pain point to discuss and that may be the one important thing you should focus your discussion on. However, when there is a large variety of topics, it can be challenging to structure the discussion in an organized way. If this is the case, the facilitator can opt to use dot voting to prioritize the discussion based on the collective desires of the group.


    We're down to the best part: discussion! Make sure everyone knows the timebox for this phase (typically, 20-40 minutes). If there are a lot of ideas to get through, you might consider timeboxing each discussion topic to take full advantage of your time together. Timeboxing tends to keep the conversation on topic and moving at a faster pace.

    Hopefully once your Starfish is complete, your team will have a clearer idea on what to do more or less of, as well as what they need to start, stop and keep doing. Make sure to capture relevant action items that your team can act on in future sprints!

    If you feel like your team is struggling to focus its energy (or that there just isn't enough energy to go around!), Starfish can be a valuable tool to have on hand. Try out this technique in your next agile retrospective to ensure that the team is aligned on their goals and opportunities for improvement.

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