There are many times during business operations when things don’t go as planned. There are several ups and downs in the whole process and it is the job of the top level managers to figure out what went wrong and how it can be prevented in the future. Sometimes, however, it is just not as simple.
The top level managers that give orders for a certain task to be completed are usually not the ones carrying it out. This is why communication with the lower staff is so important. Along with solving problems, what this does is it encourages employees to work better and boosts their morale, resulting in an overall motivated workforce. The Starfish exercise is a method developed to do just that and to get to the root of the problem.
Better known as the Starfish retrospective, this technique was developed by Patrick Kua with the intention of helping teams carrying out a job better understand what they did wrong and how they can make things better. There are numerous levels of activities that go into getting something done and it is very important to get to the root of the issues. instead of just listing down the problems with the process, the Starfish exercise encourages workers to think beyond traditional perspectives and truly understand where they went wrong.
The main purpose of the starfish exercise is to enable workers and managers alike to look at activities and actions of the business and evaluate which ones need more resources and energies directed towards them and which ones need less of these.
Keep Doing: This category includes the operations and activities happening around the organization that are adding value to it. Whether it’s the employees’ motivation or the product itself, this is something that your team is doing well and your organization might not be the same without it happening.
Less Of: As the name of the category suggests, these are practices that are happening around the business but could need some improvement. These could include a certain routine, an activity or the behavioral aspect of the employees that might not be as productive for the business. So, it is best advised to reduce its occurrence.
More of: These are activities that are happening around the organization but are not proving as beneficial to the business as they could be. The business could do much better if these activities or actions were more widely adopted. These could include a certain style of meeting or a new motivational process that might benefit a large number of employees.
Stop Doing: These are simple activities, actions and operations that are not adding any value to the business whatsoever. For the benefit of the business, these need to be stopped and let go of right away.
Start Doing: These practices could be something that your competitor has adopted and that you would like to practice in your organization. This could also be something that has been cooking up in the minds of the managers for a long time and now they would like to implement it in the hopes that it will add value to the organization.
The starfish retrospective is a great way to learn about the opinions and concerns of the employees in a cost-effective manner. A starfish diagram is a star-shaped figure that has one of the above mentioned headings in each of its arms. Once a diagram is made, employees can be asked to fill in these arms according to the instructions.
For example, the first round can be of the “Stop” category. Once everyone is done writing down their concerns, you should give 2-3 minutes to each employee to read out what they wrote. Once every person has read the ideas that they dumped into the “stop” category, allow for an open discussion of about 10 minutes to. If the opinions align on some particular topics, it means that those activities truly need to stop.
This exercise then needs to be repeated for every arm of the starfish diagram. You might have to assign some more time to the “Start” category as once the topic that has been agreed to be started, you will have to figure out a plan of action and select specific personnel to carry out that job.
Once every individual category has been discussed, there needs to be a strategy designed in order to make sure that every point discussed in the meeting is effectively implemented. This might include the appointment of competent personnel to overlook the implementation of the things that the business needs to “Start” and “Keep Doing “. Similarly, there should be an effective check on the activities that have been deemed unnecessary and harmful to the business to make sure that they are being let go of a soon as possible.
One important thing to note about how the starfish meeting works is that because of starting with the negative topics and ending on the things that the business needs to adopt, the meeting is adjourned with a positive vibe all around. The employees are left motivated and they are encouraged to look forward to something great that might come their way because of the new strategies that are being implemented.
This is a great way to keep employees interested in the business and to make them feel valued. When managers and the owners engage with employees by asking them for their opinions and feedback, they are generally encouraged to be more loyal towards the organization resulting in long term benefits for the firm.
You can create a free starfish retrospective template right now. You will also be able to export it to JPEG, PDF and spreadsheet formats in the end of the exercise.