Starfish Retrospective

Starfish Retrospective

Starfish Retrospective was developed by Patrick Kua. It is different because it focuses primarily on activities and actions in your current project. People talk about specific actions that will have an impact on the outcome of the agile sprints for the current project. Everything that comes out from this sprint is highly actionable.

Unlike the old school retrospective, Starfish makes the team think rather than just state the current state of things. The goal is to improve the performance of future sprint based on the learnings from the current sprint for the current project.

Like the real Starfish this agile retrospective also has five key points that form the core of the format. Let’s look at each of them.

Keep Doing

What’s keeping the sprint together and effective? Things that you think make a difference in the performance of the team. Things that you need to “keep doing”. It could be anything that impacts the team. Let’s look at some examples of “Keep Doing”:

1.User Stories are being broken down into smaller tickets now. This has helped in finishing things. Let’s keep at it.
2.Adding design artifacts to the tickets have helped save us time. All the information in one place is the way to go.
3.Desk checkins have helped me get feedback and support faster.

Less of

Are there things that are becoming counter productive for the team? Things that are necessary but only in limited quantities. Identifying them in the sprint retrospective can help teams save time and energy and redirect them to areas which need more support.

1.We need meetings for sure. But as we moved to remote working we have been having too many of them. I’m spending over half my day in meetings. I understand that we needed to over communicate in the beginning. But now that everyone is settled and comfortable with being remote, we need to cut back on meetings and go back to the mantra where “less is more”!
2.I had to stop my ticket twice this sprint to work on a support ticket. I know it’s important but also distracting. The cost of context switching is very high. Need to do less of it and only when absolutely necessary.

More of

Some things are working and making the sprint more productive. What are they? Can we do more of it? Can we extend it to the entire team? These are things that are making the sprint better and the team can double down on and increase its impact even more. Some examples of “More Doing” in for agile Starfish sprint retrospective are:

1.Paired programming has increased the quality of our code. Let’s keep doing more of it!
2.It was good to do a virtual catchup with the team which was not about work. Now that we are working remotely we need more of them to feel connected with our co-workers.

Stop Doing

What is slowing the team down or putting a damper on the team culture and spirit? If it keeps happening it will cause the team to fall apart. These things need to completely stop right now. Examples of things you need to stop doing are:

1.Releasing things without proper testing. We have had a few of those and it has caused customer trust to erode. We need to stop pushing things to production that are not ready.
2.People are missing standups. It’s there for a reason. If you can’t attend then send in your updates. But stop missing them. without any reason
3.We found that some people were working on things that were not assigned to them. This has an adverse affect on planning and delivery. This needs to stop. If someone comes to you and asks you to do this one “small” thing for them, tell them to go and speak with the product manager and the engineering manager.

Start Doing

Is there any way to improve our sprints? Anything you have read lately that we should try? Or worked well in your previous teams? Any ideas that have the potential to make the team better can be brought up in the retrospective. The team can then decide which ones to start doing?

1.At the end of sprints which had important features we used to do a demo for the entire company. It helped provide visibility to the team and get realtime feedback from participants. We should start doing it for our team.
2.In order to develop empathy the development team used to sometimes shadow sales managers, product managers and support teams on customer calls. Our team can use that.

A great way to kickstart your starfish retrospective is through icebreaker questions. It brings the team together and gets everyone talking. Here are some examples of ice breaker questions:

1.If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you spend these extra 8 hours?
2.What’s the story of your name?
3.What’s something you would change if you ran the world?
4.Name a TV show you think is under-rated.

We’ve got over 300 more icebreaker questions for you to pick from. Enjoy 🥳

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