Start-Stop-Continue Retrospective Format for development teams

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Aug 27, 2020
Updated on
Apr 13, 2023
Table of Content

Have you ever felt like Michael Scott from the Office trying to brainstorm ideas or awkwardly point out that some things simply do not work?

In this post, we examine the "Start Stop Continue Template" - a very effective retrospective format to increase the team dynamics and make your project run smoother while ensuring better results. 

Keep reading as we uncover why it has taken the project-management world by storm!

How to Run a Start Stop Continue Retrospective TL;DR:

  • Start: Dev team lists activities and tasks to start in the upcoming sprint
  • Stop: The team identifies what hasn't worked in the prior sprint which should stop (not to be done in upcoming sprint)
  • ‍Continue: A list of positive activities from the previous sprint that should continue in the next sprint.

What is the Start-Stop-Continue Sprint Retrospective?

This is an action-oriented retrospective format which is a fairly easy and effective way for teams to take a step back and reflect on their performance and decide what needs to be changed. 

The Start-Stop-Continue Sprint Retrospective process is commonly divided into 3 distinctive steps:

Start: Team members should come up with a collective list of activities that they can start working on in the next sprint.

Stop: The stop part of the process is very important because this is where the team members identified every aspect of the previous sprint that did not work and should therefore not be introduced in the next cycle of the project. Remember, this part is not a blaming game.

Continue: This list should include the activities that were successful and productive from the past sprint and the development team can incorporate them into the next cycle.

When following this three-step process, your team creates a series of logical steps that make the project run smoother and easier, costing fewer resources and time later down the road.

start stop continue board
Start Stop Continue Template

When is the Best Time to Use this retrospective format?

Running a retrospective meeting following the Start Stop Continue template works best when a project cycle has already finished. Before you start running a new cycle or a new project, you can use this three-step process for all aspects of work. You can track the performance of the team or the company, see what didn't work, or utilize what worked best in the next rounds.

With this action-oriented retrospective, any scrum master or goal-oriented project manager can ensure that the project runs smoothly and does not end up taking valuable time and resources.

How Do I Run this Retrospective Without Turning it Into a Blame Game?

Like in any other retrospectives, say the sailboat retrospective or lean coffee format, why don't you start with a series of icebreaker questions directed to your co-workers or employees?  Ask them what they have recently started working on and is there any part of that work that they would rather terminate or they think would not fit well in the next steps of their project. 

To avoid making it look like a blame game, you can ask them what they are excited about when it comes to their project and what they would absolutely love to keep or introduce in the next phases of the project.

Why is it important to start running the Start-Stop-Continue template in the form of questions? Well, the last thing you want is your team thinking that you are playing a blaming game. 

You should avoid creating any sort of discomfort when your coworkers have to let go of some ideas that they had but would simply not work. Having to let go of your ideas can be a hard hit for many people so it is paramount to encourage everyone to keep up with the creative work and be inspired.

Asking proper questions saves you so much time and preserves the mutual trust that is built within the group without anyone feeling left out. This strategy still allows you to play the role of devil’s advocate in the most productive and frictionless way you can imagine.

Introducing the Start Stop Continue Template

Here at GoRetro, we thought it would be a great idea to have a free retrospective tool where you could actually use the Start-Stop-Continue retrospective format with your team (along with many other retrospective formats). 

Making the most of your Start-Stop-Continue Retrospective Meeting 

#1 Invite Your Whole Team To Join

With just a few clicks, you can invite all of your team members by sending them an email invite and you can start with brainstorming and pitching ideas. 

#2 Put Your Ideas to a Vote

Once you've pitched a few ideas, let the team members vote for the best ones and take them up for discussion.

#3 Create Assignments

You can create all sorts of action items and you can easily assign ownership to them. This will make it easier for you to do future sprint reviews or sprint retrospectives.

#4 Don't be Shy and Share Your Results

Everything on our GoRetro Start-Stop-Continue Template can be shared immediately with all of your team members. 

Why is the Start-Stop-Continue Retrospective Important

A retrospective meeting and process like this is crucial for assessing progress and status of the dev team and output. When something doesn't work, it's eliminated and replaced with something more result wielding and efficient. 

Not only that, but it helps designate the strengths of employees to their proper paths and helps validate which of their contributions are typically helpful and which aren't, creating long-term confidence and pride. From here, momentum builds quickly. 

To avoid the most hits to pride during this elimination process, consider anonymous submissions of strategies that are deemed obsolete, so there aren't personal tensions in the team, and there's no public humiliation. It does need to be done, but it doesn't need to be hard. 

Wrapping Up

The Start-Stop-Continue retrospective template is truly a wonderful way to boost the team's productivity and creativity while ensuring high-quality output in the future.

Instead of having an awkward meeting session with a blackboard and a marker, why don’t you take our solution for a spin and make your projects easy and practical? 

It is 100% Free for use: unlimited retro boards, unlimited members, and unlimited retrospectives. 

Start-Stop-Continue Retrospective Infographic
Start-Stop-Continue Infographic

Interested in other retrospective formats?

From "What Went Well" to "Starfish retrospective", "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

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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