Sunday, October 29, 2017

The “Starfish Method” for Useful Retrospectives | Supreme Agile

The starfish diagram is an excellent information gathering activity used to help the team members to reflect the things that they want to bring up throughout this short session, it’s based on an evolution of the historical three basic questions asked in this session:
  • What Went Well?
  • What went wrong?
  • What can be improved?
Now, instead of answering these three basic questions that categorize the participants' response to a "Black" and "Whit" criterion, the starfish diagram contains five areas for the team to choose:

Keep Doing (What the team should keep doing?)
A very good idea is to start the retrospective meeting with positive insights of the team members, the "Keep Doing" area will allow the team members to share their good insights and what they liked in the last iteration.

Less OF (What the team should do less of?)
This area will allow the team members to share their negative insights and the practices that they think that should be changed in order to promote the team process. In most cases, we will want to understand which are the processes that the team invest a major amount of effort and bring little benefit to the team/Customer.

More OF (What the team should do more of?)
This area will allow the team members to focus on the things that they should focus more such as tools/practices that will improve the process.

Stop Doing (What the team should stop doing?)
This area will allow team members to raise all things that are not promoting the team or Add value to the team/customer and therefore the team should stop using them.

Start Doing (What the team should start doing?)
This area will help the team members to suggest new ways to improve the process (New practices, Tools, Etc.) to increase the value per iteration.

The Starfish diagram and the maturity of the team

A frequently asked question about this technique is "Can we use this exercise on a new team?", Well, the answer is certainly Yes! The starfish technique is suitable for mature and un-matured teams as well.

The main reason for that is that this exercise is relatively simple and does not require any special demands or experience from the participants. In addition, the starfish exercise Provide an easy platform and criteria that will allow the team members to share their insights in a relatively simple way.

The Starfish exercise

The starfish exercise is executed with a few simple phases, starting from the preparation and continues with the data gathering, the basic phases are:

Phase 1 - Preparation 

Prior to setting up the meeting, make sure that you prepare a board with the picture of the starfish diagram, the board should allow the team members to use sticky notes to add their insights per criteria.

Phase 2 - Agenda

Once all team members are located in the room, start with a short description bout the meeting goals, and what do we want to achieve at the end.  

Phase 3 - Running the exercise 

  1. Start the exercise with a short brainstorming session with the team, in this session the team members are asked to write their insights about a specific category, but as I told before, start with the good things first, so you can start with one of the positive criteria ("More" or "Keep").
  2. After 4-5 minutes, ask the team members to stop and ask each one of them to read out load his insights.
  3. Once all team members are finished, take 2-3 minutes to review the main ideas and make sure that the team members are aligned.
  4. The main ideas should be copies to the board (Just use Sticky notes), and prioritized based on the amount of value they will add once they revoked. 

Phase 4 – Repeat phase 3 for each of the other sections

Phase 5 – Set owners and Goals

Once the board Is filled and prioritized based on the team insights, it’s now the time to set the owners for each action item that need to be mitigated in order to improve the process. 

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