Starfish Retrospective Format

Alex Vernik
Alex Vernik
Engineering Ops Specialist
Posted on
Jan 14, 2021
Updated on
Jul 4, 2022
Table of Content

Welcome again to a recurring review of the many sprint retrospective types, with this time we’re checking out the Starfish retrospective format...

Starfish are amazing creatures, and not just because they can turn their own stomachs inside out. But, as amazing as that is, did you know that they can also drastically improve your sprint’s activity? 
Gather round, teammates. You’re about to learn the starfishing way of doing things...for the better! 

What is The Starfish Sprint Retrospective

The Starfish retrospective format is a great way to gather data and reflect on previous work to figure out what went well and what can be improved upon for next time. The Starfish format can help with structure by providing specific categories that need to be discussed in the sprint retrospective.

Much like the KALM retro format, the Starfish retro is focused on ensuring all participants are working towards a common, value-based goal: with a basic, 5-pronged structure (like a starfish, see?), the categories under discussion include: 

  • Keep
  • Stop
  • Start
  • Less, and 
  • More

Keep

This section is where the team discusses what’s currently working well across the sprint, and should continue to be included in each sprint. 

While you could choose to let each team member write down whatever they like on their post-it notes, some good guiding questions include - 

  • What’s gone well in past sprints? 
  • What’s made things easier and more productive for the team? 
  • What should we continue doing? 
  • What’s helped us to reach our goals in the past? 

Stop

Here's where things get a little more tricky for some of your team members, but where their real thoughts will shine through! The ‘stop’ category is the opposite of the ‘Keep’ category, above. It's where your team can reflect on anything and everything that is either negatively impacting the sprint, or not adding to it value-wise. Some questions to ask include - 

  • What didn’t work so well during past sprints? 
  • Why didn't these things work out for us? 
  • What were the problems or issues that happened? 
  • How could these problems and issues have been prevented? 

Start

Here’s where you ask your team members to discuss and develop the ideas to make all teamwork more efficient. Helpful questions you might like to ask include - 

  • What can make the work we do more effective? 
  • What new routines should be implemented? 
  • What could help us to achieve our goals? 

Less

Similar - but not the same as - the ‘Stop’ category, above, the ‘Less’ category is there to give your teammates the chance to air out aspects of the sprint that didn’t go so well, but that shouldn't be scrapped completely. A good rule of thumb is to think of it as ‘helpful to a point’. 

The questions to ask here include - 

  • What would be good, but at a lesser scale? 
  • What is slowing us down, and why? 
  • What is totally necessary, but could be reduced at the same time? 

More

Similar to the ‘less’ category, above, the ‘more’ category is all about the things the team are already doing and using, but that could be used more. These questions might be helpful here: 

  • What’s helping us to reach our goals, and can this be taken up a notch? 
  • What can we do more of, or more often? 
  • What’s working well for us? 
starfish sprint retrospective board by GoRetro
GoRetro Starfish Retrospective Board

How to Run Your Starfish Retrospective

It’s super simple to get up and running with the Starfish retro. 

  1. Divide your board into the 5 sections outlined above: keep, stop, start, less, more.
  2. Give each team member some post-its and ask them to write one issue per note. 
  3. Get them to stick these in the appropriate section. 
  4. Discuss away! 

When should the Starfish Agile Retrospective be used?

The Starfish retrospective is perfect after a sprint to gather insight on how well the sprint went and what can be done to ensure the next one is successful.

Starfish Retros on GoRetro 

What’s 5-legged, colorful, completely free, and loved by masses of dev-teams including the likes of Netflix, Sonos, Adobe and more? 

GoRetro - Sprint Retrospective Tool 

This forever-free tool will have you turning your stomach inside out (just like a real starfish!) with nothing but joy. Enjoy painless, and sped-up and blameless retrospectives, free forever! 

Get started here and enjoy that starfish-style retro. 

Starfish Retrospective Infographic
Starfish Retrospective Infographic

Interested in other retrospective formats?


From "What Went Well" to "lean coffee format", "Sailboat retrospective" and more, GoRetro's offers a wide variety of retrospective templates.
Pick up the best sprint retrospective template for your team or create your own retro board using our custom option.


About the author

Alex Vernik
Engineering Ops Specialist

Engineering leader, passionate about coding products and value creation. Vast experience with managing R&D teams at various scales. Embracing innovation and transformation for constant improvement.

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