Retrospective: Start, stop, continue

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Start, stop, continue

The start, stop, continue retrospective format can be used on two ways:

  • Focus on the last sprint
  • Focus on the team’s way of working in general, or over a longer period of time

This format allows the team to think about what is going well, the things that might not be helping the team and also the things that the team is doing too much or perhaps not enough. It’s a good format to reflect on the general way of working within the team, and to see how the team can still improve together.

The Icebreaker

The suggested icebreaker for this template is to ask everybody to give a quick rating to the last sprint. One thumbs up means that it was overall a bad sprint where a lot of things didn’t go well, and five thumbs up means it was an amazing sprint that went very well for the team. You can ask everybody to share a few words that explain why they chose that specific meme. Don’t go into any detailed discussions in this stage, as the goal is just to get everybody engaged and actively participating.

The retrospective format

The retrospective consists of 3 stages:

  1. “Start:” what should we start doing? What aren’t we doing yet, but would help the team?
  2. “Stop:” what should we stop doing? What is not helping us, or even slowing us down?
  3. “Continue:” what should we keep doing? What is going very well?

After explaining the 3 stages to your team, give everybody a few minutes to write down their thoughts on a post-it. After this, you can do a quick dot voting session to determine the most important one(s) and start with a discussion on those.

While having the discussion on a topic, always focus on what’s within the control of the team. Don’t focus too much on external people or factors, but mainly on the things that are within the control of the team to identify improvement actions that the team is able to take. You want to have 1 – 2 action items at the end of the retrospective that you can implement in the next iteration(s). Remember: you will not always have big live changing action items in each retrospective. That’s also not the intention. A small action that brings a small improvements is already very good. Try to improve a little each sprint instead of trying to bring big changes at once.

About last retrospective...

A crucial part of the retrospective is to reflect on the outcome of the previous one! Teams often forget to do this, but it is very important as it gives the team the confirmation that the action items are actually important… And that we want to make sure we improve! There is a section on the top of the template where you can refer to the action items of the last retrospective. Go over them, see how you are doing in regards to them, and decide what to do next.

Rate your retro!

At the very end of the retrospective, I ask the team to quickly rate their retrospective with focus on: 

  1. Did we have a good discussion? Did we speak openly, and respect each others opinion?
  2. Do we have valuable action items? And, are we confident that we will do them in the next sprint?

We also use a feedback wall where team members can share their feedback on the retrospective. As the facilitator, you can encorporate this feedback into the next retrospective session.

Other things about the format

On the very top of the format, you can see 2 elements:

  • Action items / experiments: this is the place where you would write down the action items during the retrospective. This makes it easy to summarize them at the end of the session.
  • Idea for the next retrospective: I always like to foresee an area where people can give feedback or give input for the next retrospective. This can be feedback on the current format, ideas for a new format, tips, general feedback… Anything that can help us make the next retrospective even better! I would not make it required for people to give input in this, make them feel free to give input when they come up with something.

Download the template (for free)

You can download the Miro template for free below:

If you don’t have a premium version of Miro, you can also download the picture at the top of the screen and create the board in Google Drawings.


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