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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 starts, the facilitator or product owner opts to create their own template from the options in Retrium's retrospective exercises toolbox and creates five columns. ⭐🐟  Each column - or arm of the starfish - represents a single topic point of discussion and should be labeled to reflect each of these as a starting point:

  • 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 works and what each of the five columns means. 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.

    Ideation

    The timebox for this first phase should last between 10-15 minutes. During this step, 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 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.

    Grouping

    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 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.

    Discussion

    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.

    This brings us back to the starfish. ⭐🐟  The facilitator points out the grouping of trends, patterns, and differing opinions and ideas in each section. As each section is discussed, each team member should have a chance to speak and give their opinion, and the facilitator should write down any action items generated with their associated success criteria and the responsible persons. Remember that not all team members will feel completely comfortable voicing their opinion. This is why it’s important for both the facilitator and the team to take the extra step of noting the placement of the ideas and taking this to heart.

    For the Start part, add one extra step. Use the Toyota approach, choose one single topic to discuss. You can do voting to see what the team considers the most important topic to start with. After the topic is selected, design a small strategy to make sure this topic is well implemented. This strategy might include responsible persons, the deadline, and most importantly, success criteria. In order to know if the implementation was successful, we must have success criteria outlined. (oikosofy.com)

    Once your starfish is complete, it should be clear to the team what they plan to do more of, less of, start doing, stop doing, and keep doing. In true agile nature, have the team regroup in a week or two to check-in, see how the new processes are going, and run another starfish retrospective if need be. There is no need to reserve a starfish retrospective for a special occasion. Instead, this retrospective exercise can help team members feel more aligned on a shared action plan and enhance positive feelings of collaboration and engagement.

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