Starfish retrospective

Sprint  idea – dive right in with this sand-sational retrospective

What is a Starfish retrospective?

The Starfish retrospective is a technique developed by Patrick Kua to help teams reflect on varying degrees of actions and activities  rather than simply the traditional what went well or what did not go well. So rather than just listing down what happened, this asks the team to be more specific  and to foster thinking about practices that are generating value. It helps the team members understand how each other person perceives the values of such perspectives.
The goal of the Starfish exercise more about getting people to look at current practices and which ones should have more or less energy directed at them. The activities considered must of course be directly related to the project at hand. This exercise was an extension of the traditional agile retrospective method. It is best run after a few retrospectives have occurred and there has been some period of activity for the team to reflect on.
The starfish retrospective is divided into the following sections. It is generally recommended that you ask the team to follow this order of brainstorming in order to keep team spirits high, allow issues to surface and then end with positive affirmative action.

Stafish retrospective format

Keep Doing

These are things that energize the team, is adding value and something the team is doing well and you recognize the value on it. What are the good things in your project or what will people miss if it isn’t there?

Less Of

These are practices that are already being done but might need refining because it is not currently helpful or productive in the current situation. This could be as simple as a behaviour, an activity or a routine that is not efficient or value adding in its current form.

More Of

These might be practices, technologies or activities that team members think there should be more of or is not currently being taken full advantage of. This might be additional paired programming or running more short sharp meetings.

Stop Doing

These are things that are not bringing value, or even worse, getting in the way.  It’s time for these to go.

Start Doing

A new idea, or  something you have seen working before that you would like to bring to the table. It might be something simple or just to keep things dynamic and fun.

While the ideal scenario is to do each topic one by one, you can also open it up so that people can add ideas under any of the sections when they are ready. You can then discuss them in the above order.


Suggested Icebreaker questions for Starfish retrospectives

  • How do you decide if you want more of something?
  • If you were something that was found in the ocean, what would you be?
  • Name a place you could see a star.

Retro Rehearsal

Invite your team to rehearse the retro referencing something based on physical health.

For example, thinking of the last time you did a physical activity, what did you want to keep doing, what did you want less of, what did you want more of, what did you want to stop doing or what did you want to start doing?

Ideas and tips for your Starfish retrospective exercise

  • Set the stage.  Let people know that the objective of the retrospective is to focus on actionable items and refining current practice and activity.
  • There might be ideas where there are differences of perception. For example one person might decide that they want more meetings and another might want less. Using dot voting by the team will allow the team to help build consensus. It will also important to further discuss and to resolve any conflict so that a clear action item can be carried forward.
  • Getting team buy in to the changes is important. By allowing them to brainstorm, vote and discuss is a great start. A good technique to help crystalise the change is to ask the team what would stop them from putting these changes into place.
  • A neat way to gauge the overall health of the project is to look at the number of items under each of the topics.
  • A thank you goes a long way. Give a shout out to the team at the end of the meeting.

How to run a Starfish retrospective in TeamRetro

Start Agile Retrospective

Start your retrospective in a click
Log into TeamRetro and choose your sprint retrospective template.

Invite Your Team
Invite your team easily – no separate accounts needed
Send an email invite, a link or add to your Slack channel to get people started quickly. SSO options are also available.
Agile Retrospective Brainstorm
Time to brainstorm
Each team member can now brainstorm individually under each topic. This avoids group think and allows everyone to have their say. They can indicate when they have finished, or you can set a timer so that you know when to move onto the next stage.
Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting
Group related ideas
Drag and drop  related ideas to combine them for easier voting. TeamRetro can also automatically suggest ideas that are similar, saving you and your team valuable time.
Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting
Vote independently to avoid anchoring
Each team member votes on what they would most like to discuss further. The results won’t be displayed to everyone until you advance to Discuss.
Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting

Discuss the most important things first
You and your team discuss the top voted ideas and can capture deep dive comments.  Presentation mode allows you to walk your team through ideas one-by-one and keep the conversation focused.

Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting

Review and create actions

Easily facilitate discussion by bringing everyone onto the same page. Create action items, assign owners and due dates that will carry through for review at the next retrospective.

Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting

Share the results
Once you have finished your retro, you can share the results and actions with the team. Your retro will be stored so you can revisit them as needed.

Congratulations! You’ve just run a retro like a boss.
Want more? Read on.