When you want to get down to the fundamentals, Start Stop Continue is a simple technique for an action-oriented retrospective meeting that encourages participants to come up with practical ideas for team-based improvement and action items you implement right away.
Focus the team on creating a list of concrete actions it can take to improve
Look back at the last sprint (stop & continue) while also looking forward to the next sprint (start doing)
This retrospective technique is based around three primary questions - what should we start doing? what should we stop doing? and what should we continue doing? Before the retrospective begins, the facilitator should select the Start Stop Continue technique from Retrium's retrospective exercise toolkit.
Before you hit start on the retrospective, make sure that everyone understands what each column is asking participants to consider.
Start List: Things that the team thinks would have a positive impact on the team that aren't already implemented
Stop List: Things within the team’s workflow or process that aren’t helping the team to achieve their goals and should be stopped
Continue List: Things that are already worked well in the previous iteration and should stay in the workflow
To make sure you end the retrospective on time, create a timebox for the entire meeting (30-60 minutes, depending on the size of the team) so the team has an idea of how much time each discussion should take. When everyone feels comfortable, it is time to continue.
It’s time to start brainstorming! Allow participants 5 minutes to create important ideas that will be added to each column. While brainstorming, participants should keep their ideas private during this phase. 🤫 Keeping ideas private during this stage helps prevent groupthink and ensures that team members aren’t influenced by seeing the opinions of others. If possible, making space for private idea generation is the best way to collect honest feedback. (Psst we know a digital tool that makes this step easy.) When the timebox ends, the participants should have added each of their ideas as individual sticky notes to the relevant column.
A few team members may be on the same page – or at least reading out of the same book – and create similar ideas in their notes. The team has some alignment! Now the facilitator directs the team to group notes with a similar theme. Did four notes mention happy hours or team activities? Sounds like socialization should be a discussion topic. Did all the notes mention how fun this retrospective is? Then maybe implementing more retrospectives should be a topic. Regardless of the topics, grouping sticky notes that are similar helps identify themes for the upcoming discussion.
If there are a lot of ideas or groups to discuss, it can be challenging to structure the discussion in a meaningful way. If this is the case, the facilitator can opt to use Dot Voting to organize the retrospective based on the collective prioritization of the group.
If dot voting was used, then the team discusses the notes in prioritized order. If not, the facilitator can choose the order of discussion. When it comes to timeboxing the discussion, you have a few options, you can timebox the entire discussion (20-40 minutes). You may also choose to timebox the conversation of each individual topic well (5 or 10 minutes). The advantage of this approach is that it tends to keep the conversation on topic and moving at a faster pace.
Remember! As the conversation progresses, it’s imperative that the facilitator also write down any action items that come out of each discussion topic in order to help the team create action points and an action plan for improvement with each sprint.
By the end of the discussion, the team should have some clear goals on what they hope to start, stop, and continue doing into the next sprint. These action items can be captured in the team's action plan. It's important for these topics to be discussed and celebrated during the next iteration at daily stand ups and other meetings to keep the team aligned on their commitment to continuous improvement.