What is a retrospective?
Retrospective generally means to take a look back at events that already have taken place and performing a retrospective is a natural part of all projects whether or not it is done formally or informally. Performing the retrospective in as a workshop with focus on output and taking actions on the results helps realise potential benefits and improvements in ongoing projects. Furthermore, the process helps reduce tension and is motivating to the people involved.
The essence of the starfish
The starfish diagram, as seen on the figure, is basically about asking the project team five key questions:
- What should we keep on doing?
- What should we do more of?
- What should we do less of?
- What should we start doing?
- What should we stop doing?
The final steps of the process is simply to prioritise input, plan when to do something about it and finally start executing the changes.
“The Retrospective Starfish is a fast, fun and powerful tool for projects, and it can also be successfully applied on departments and even companies
Using the tool
The whole process should be no longer than 2 hours in total.
1. Before you begin
Make sure you have pens and a lot of post-it notes ready for participants – and and undisturbed room suitable for the process.
2. Team Brainstorming
Introduce the starfish model and objective of the meeting. Starting with KEEP you collect input from the team through silent brainstorming for 5 minutes, where the team write their individual points for KEEP on post-it notes (only one point/sentence on each post-it).
After five minutes have elapsed change focus to MORE, and while they are writing you collect the post-its of KEEP. Put them on a board and group similar post-its so it is easy to see the hot topics.
After finishing all five rounds you should have a board looking something like the figure here.
3. Discuss output
Discuss the output with the team in order to share the knowledge of what is on the board, which topics are hot and clarify if something is not understandable. Be careful not to ask who wrote the specific post-its, but ask questions like e.g. how important the topic is, or if it is a concern of the majority.
4. Prioritise changes
Prioritizing the proposed changes can be done in many ways. In order to keep things simple, group the important post-it notes into three categories, namely what we can do something about today, what we will handle during the next week and what we will be initiating during the next month. Be sure to note the person responsible to each post-it
Communicate and show progress as the post-its are being solved. You will findthat you get a both happy and engaged team when listening to and acknowledging their input and demonstrate that you are acting acting on it. Consider have an additional retrospective in e.g. 2-3 months.
The Retrospective Starfish is a fast, fun and powerful tool for projects, and it can also be successfully applied on departments and even companies.
When to use a facilitator
In most cases, the project manager is able to facilitate the The Retrospective Starfish process and let the team generate the contributions. However, in certain cases a person out side of the project sphere should be used as facilitator.
Use facilitator if e.g.
- You are an important contributor to the retrospective (you cannot both facilitate and participate at the same time!)
- You are facing personal or professional critique from the project
- If the team is demotivated, unsatisfied or if there is high tension in general
- The group of participants is large