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The Start, Stop, Continue Canvas

The Start, Stop, Continue retrospective is an action-driven way for teams to get feedback collectively.

By Gustavo Razzetti

February 23, 2021

A feedback exercise to improve team performance

The Start, Stop, Continue Canvas is a simple method for effective team retrospectives. It encourages team members to reflect on what is and isn't working with an action-oriented mindset. People come up with concrete behaviors and practices to increase performance: things they want to continue doing and those they must start or stop.

Although the format has been widely used for individual feedback, it’s great for team retrospectives, too.

Why Use the Start, Stop, Continue Canvas

The best time to run a Start, Stop, Continue retrospective is immediately after a cycle (the end of a project, sprint, or quarter) Team retrospectives are effective when done immediately after the fact, so everyone has what worked and what didn’t in the front of their minds.

The Stop, Start, Continue Canvas is a visual way to practice it.

Benefits of the Start, Stop, Continue Team Feedback:

• Clarifies and structures feedback into three simple categories: ‘start,’ ‘stop,’ and ‘continue’

• Allows the entire team to review how they are doing both individually and collectively

• Identifies areas of improvement and experimentation

• Reinforces good habits and behaviors that the teams must continue

• Encourages action rather than blame or rumination

• Promotes continuous learning and improvement

The Start, Stop, Continue retrospective exercise addresses three areas:

Start

What behaviors, mindsets, or activities do we need to begin in the next cycle? Consider both improvements and areas for experimentation

Examples:

“Start asking more questions of our leader rather than assume we understood their vision.”

"Start challenging each other more often."

Stop

What are things that no longer serve us? What behaviors and practices harm us, of which we need to let go of?

Example:

“Stop showing up late to our weekly meeting.”

"Stop leaving a meeting without clear next steps."

Continue

What behaviors, mindsets, or activities should stay as part of the team’s best practices?

Example:

“Continue having our 10-minute daily stand-up meeting to address the goal of the day.”

"Continue our check-in round to see how everyone's doing and feeling."

You can use the Start, Stop, Continue exercise to reflect on team performance, the business, or a particular project.

Download the free MURAL template.

How to Facilitate the Start, Stop, Continue Team Retrospective

This retrospective is very straightforward and action-driven; it doesn’t require specific skills to facilitate it. The only challenge is keeping people honest and making ensure they focus on behaviors, not intentions.

First, allow people to reflect on their own. They can capture their thoughts and ideas on their own Canvas, or you can create various templates in MURAL.

Second, tackle one box at the time from top to down, beginning with “Start.” Have each team member share one sticky note. Once everyone’s done, continue with a new round until everyone has shared all their notes.

Allow time for discussion and clarifications. Consolidate similar ideas into clusters. Before moving to the next section, have people vote/ prioritize action items.

Now focus on “Stop” using the same process. It’s important that people realize the bad behaviors that no longer serve the team and which must be let go of, as well as time-wasters (activities that don’t add much value and can be eliminated to make room for more important things).

If you have time, you can facilitate two separate rounds: the first where people reflect on their personal behavior and a second to reflect on collective ones.

If you practice this exercise regularly, it shouldn’t take your team more than 20 minutes to complete. You can also ask people to complete prior to the discussion which will save a lot of time. Plus, it’s easier for introverts who usually need time to reflect.

The language of the three categories – Start, Stop, Continue – encourages solutions that can be implemented immediately. When you think in terms of, “I will start doing X, Y, and Z,” it feels more concrete and sticks more.

What do you think?

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