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The Start Stop Continue Retrospective

Template of an empathy map with the sections described above

While a retrospective might sound like it’s all about the past, it’s also about the future. And the present, too.

With the Start Stop Continue retrospective exercise, your development team can learn lessons from the past, cut out what’s not working, and keep doing what’s working well.

What is a Start Stop Continue Retrospective?

The larger a development task becomes, the tougher it can be to control.

With many (and often disparate) voices within a team, communication can certainly worsen the more people join a conversation. Some people want to talk about what’s working, others want to focus on what’s not working. And everything gets out of hand — fast.

It’s here that a specific framework to guide and give structure to the conversation can come in handy. The framework in question here is the Start Stop Continue meeting format.

The Start Stop Continue retrospective covers three core focus areas:

Start

This group contains items the team should be working on but aren’t just yet. “Start” is often home to new ideas that solve problems in different ways.

Stop

This group is all about those little annoyances and frustrations that we all face in our everyday jobs. If it’s a source of negativity in the team, it goes in this bucket.

Continue

This is where teams keep the stuff they’re most proud of. These items are things that are working well, producing results for the team, and so should be continued.

Why use the Start Stop Continue Retrospective?

The Start Stop Continue retrospective is all about facilitating wise decision-making. It’s about learning from the past to create a more fine-tuned future.

It also brings with it a host of other benefits that can help team cohesion, productivity, and even job satisfaction.

Here are 5 great reasons to use a Start Stop Continue retrospective with your team:

  1. You can make sure everyone’s voice is heard. The Start Stop Continue retrospective is democratic by design. It gives every member of the team an opportunity to talk about their progress, how they feel the project is going, and what they’d like to change.
  2. You might unearth a better way to get things done. As we know, the key to any retrospective is to learn from the past, but they also help you make way for the future. As your team discusses what’s gone well (and what’s not), your conversations might uncover previously-unexplored ideas, opportunities, insights, and ways forward.
  3. It brings your team together. Retrospectives aren’t about pointing the finger. They’re for sharing frustrations openly and identifying how the team can do things better. A handy side effect of this “venting” is that team members will feel more comfortable with each other. And when teams are honest and authentic, they work better together.
  4. Start Stop Continue meetings identify bottlenecks before they get worse. Central to the Start Stop Continue meeting is its ability to reveal potential flaws in your process — the things that otherwise remain hidden until the end of the development. This can be a genuine game-changer, because it means less work later on and reduced risk of issues.
  5. It maintains project momentum, even when things get tough. No matter what product a team is developing, there are times when doing sprint after sprint can get tiring. What’s particularly demoralizing is having issues to raise, but no arena to raise them in. The Start Stop Continue framework can be this outlet, ensuring problems are tackled with immediate action. This maintains momentum and keeps everyone pulling together.

How to plan and run a Start Stop Continue retrospective meeting

Now that you’re familiar with the concept of the Start Stop Continue retrospective, you’re probably eager to give it a go yourself.

Before that, though, let’s just run through a quick step-by-step of exactly how to plan and manage a Start Stop Continue retrospective meeting. Follow these simple steps (and couple them with the free template we’ll share shortly) and you’ll be well on your way to having a product team that’s firing on all cylinders.

Step 1: The groundwork

Before you bring the team together, you’ll need to get everything scheduled and ready for the meeting. Create a meeting as normal, invite your product team (and anyone else you feel would bring value), and then create a simple board in Easyretro with the Start Stop Continue template applied. (Don’t worry, you’ll find the link to this at the bottom of this page).

Step 2: The brainstorm

Here’s where the fun begins.

Once convened, ask all of the attendees to write down suggestions for each of the main buckets: Start, Stop, and Continue. As with any brainstorm, try not to put too many limits on the process and allow people to produce their thoughts in a very raw form.

Step 3: The review

Has everyone written down their thoughts? Great. Now it’s time for the leader (that’s probably you) to go through each one in turn and read them aloud. If any of the ideas are similar (and they very often are for big issues or ideas), merge them into just one. You might also want to move the feedback into different buckets if you all agree.

Step 4: The vote

Now that your ideas are all organized into buckets, it’s time to make some decisions. As a group, hold a vote to decide which of the ideas deserve further discussion and which should be discarded or held off until future retrospectives. To keep this stage of the process as tight as possible, you might want to assign a limited number of votes to each team member.

Step 5: The discussion

With a refined list of items, your team can now go through each category in order — Start, Stop, and Continue — to assign actions moving forward. Because each category is so different, the tone will shift as you go through this process, but remember that the goal is always one of positivity. Start Stop Continue is about eliminating the negative elements of your process and emphasizing the positive ones.

Step 6: The documentation

Once all of your discussions are done, you should be left with a well-refined, streamlined set of items for each group. From here, you’ll want to document each one so you can refer to them during future Start Stop Continue sessions. It’s here that the EasyRetro board you set up will come in very useful.

Examples of the Start Stop Continue method

You can probably already think of a few things which you’d like to start, stop, and continue. But to get those creative juices flowing, here are a few examples.

Start
  • Clean up the backlog
  • Test use cases for the new release
  • Improve communication between team members during sprints
Stop
  • Adding too many stories to the sprint
  • Beginning daily stand-ups late
Continue
  • Team-building and work outings
  • Ensure all team members are present at sprint reviews
  • Meeting at least 90% of shared goals

Ready to try it yourself? Here’s a free template

The best way to learn about the Start Stop Continue framework is to try it yourself first-hand. And that’s exactly what you can do with EasyRetro.

Get started right now with our easy-to-use Start Stop Continue template. Once you’re done, you’ll be able to export it as a JPEG, PDF, or a spreadsheet format.

From there, it’s all up to you.