Start Stop Continue is the fundamental retrospective analysis you can apply in feedback and Agile Sprint meetings.

Business is not just about short-term profits. It is also to build some long-term plans that help build a sustainable and continually growing company. 

To enable business owners, managers, and leadership to create long-term strategies, business administration experts keep researching business management theories that drive productivity and profitability.

Start Stop Continue is a theory that helps you gather feedback, implement feedback, improve future Agile Sprints, and more. 

Read on to learn Start Stop Continue as retrospective facilitation from the inside out. In the end, you will become confident in applying this team or business process review technique in real-life situations.     

Introduction

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Start Stop Continue is a retrospective review technique originated from Agile software development practice. In Agile Sprints, the team gathers for a meeting to understand which part of the process should be continued, which step to be stopped, and what new process the team should adopt.

Such retrospective meetings started delivering phenomenal success and Agile process improvements to software and product development companies. Then other businesses have also started implementing this technique as a feedback and review methodology.

The review technique can be highly simple at the personal level and complex for organization-level productivity improvements. Furthermore, it is one of the most popular tools for collecting democratized feedback, suggestion, impulsive ideas, etc.     

The Theory Behind Start Stop Continue Technique 

The Agile software development process used to be so fast that the team members constantly worked on new Sprints and delivered minimum viable products (MVPs).

However, the Agile experts thought to implement a pause between two Sprints to reflect upon the past processes and improve the next Sprint. From here, the retrospective review process of Start Stop Continue originated. 

Later on, business administrators started using this review technique in other similar situations where the business process can benefit from ideas shared by project members from their past experiences.

Elements

A Start Stop Continue board may contain many elements like the meeting title, date, participants, project name, agenda, etc. However, the followings are the indispensable columns that you must include: 

Elements of start stop continue

Start

The Start is the list of ideas, feedback, etc., that are new to the business process or Agile project. You should mention this note in the matrix, so the team members do not confuse themselves.

The ideas, suggestions, actions, etc., in the Start column should focus on the followings: 

  • Making an old process better
  • Forming new business workflows and processes
  • Minimizing wastage of resources and budgets
  • Making the final product or service better than the last iteration
  • Improving team collaboration effort  

Stop

This list helps weed out unproductive and loss-making practices the team or business has been using. When you reduce some ineffective steps from your business workflow, the employees can focus on the actions mentioned in the Start list.

When creating an action list for the Stop column, keep the following in mind:

  • Cease actions that require more time and money and offer little rewards
  • Distract the team from the core responsibilities
  • Tasks are inefficient
  • Impacts the team and business negatively
  • Not in your business’s core competencies  

Continue

The Continue list should contain the actions and ideas that performed well in the past iterations or projects. You or your team members can focus on their workflows to discover well-performing tasks and write those down in the Continue column. 

When to Employ?

When to Employ the Start Stop Continue Method

For any retrospective Sprint or project meetings, you can use this technique. However, here are the industry-approved phases when you need this feedback or process review method:

  • Created a product, marketed it, and want to improve further
  • Merged with a new company
  • Started a new business unit
  • A new manager joined the team
  • Collect feedback from clients and consumers
  • Business is at a critical crossroads
  • Transitioned to a new process and want to evaluate its efficiency 
  • Employee performance evaluation
  • Analyze product/service/marketing/sales strategies

Benefits

The primary benefit you can expect is to discover the areas for improvement. Other notable advantages are:

  • Creates a trusted relationship between the team and the team leader
  • Improves collaboration practices
  • Encourages everyone to share unique ideas
  • Helps explore objectives and goals that the whole team or business agrees on
  • Help employees improve their performance
  • Fosters behavioral and social change within the team
  • Improves the workforce collectively and individually
  • Put the team in sync on priority tasks of the project 

Real-life Examples

Team Performance

Team Performance retrospective review matrix

Start Stop Continue matrix for a team may include the following activities: 

Start

Stop

  • Fruitless and ever-expanding debates on team meetings
  • Ending virtual meetings without creating the meeting minutes

Continue

  • Regular team meetings to set priorities for the day
  • Using WordPress debugging tools for specific issues with content management

Business Transition

Consider you have transitioned your business to the cloud. Also, you allow WFH to some employees. After a couple of months, you need to collect data like the following matrix: 

Start

Stop

  • Cease using papers for contracts and agreements
  • Stop procuring new IT hardware

Continue

  • Use business apps on the cloud
  • Video conferencing for team meetings, client meetings, etc.

Sales and Marketing

Sales and Marketing retrospective review matrix

Retrospective reviews can be helpful for digital marketing, online ad campaigns, field marketing efforts, promoting direct sales, and more. Here are some example actions and a corresponding Start Stop Continue matrix you can use: 

Start

  • Sending newsletters and marketing emails to prospects and leads
  • Getting customer reviews on products/services
  • Showcase customer testimonials on websites and landing pages

Stop

  • Posting stock visual or text content on multiple social channels
  • Covering complex and disputed social issues for viral marketing
  • Using extensive papers for field marketing data collection  

Continue 

  • SEO-optimized blog and knowledge base content
  • Resort to influencer marketing for product promotion
  • Supporting customers via Twitter tweets and direct messages (DMs)

Sprint Retrospective

After each Sprint, the Agile team leader hosts a team meeting to find what is working, what is not, and what new should be implemented. The example actions could be as below: 

Start

Stop

  • Guess working practices
  • Working in silos

Continue 

Resources

Miro

Start Stop Continue template from Miro

Your journey in the search for the best Start Stop Continue templates should start with Miro. The template is straightforward, easy to understand, and accessible via a free Miro subscription plan. 

Now, to analyze the template, It consists of three column headers: Start (Green), Stop (Red), and Continue (Black). Beneath these column headers, there are solid color columns that match the header text’s color. Hence, it becomes easier to relate the header to the list. 

To get you started, this Miro template also offers three online sticky notes on each column. Ideas, suggestions, feedback, Agile process elements, etc., will go into these sticky notes in the retrospective meeting. 

You can add more by simply copy-pasting the sticky notes. You can also share the link to this workspace with your team members for collaborative brainstorming on Agile retrospectives.         

MURAL

Start Stop Continue template from Mural

If you are looking for a more professional and complex template, you can try one from Mural. This Start Stop Continue format is perfect for stakeholder meetings, professional presentations, printing, etc. 

It has multiple visual elements like a sidebar for additional texts, a title, a topic section, Start Stop Continue lists icons, and sticky notes.

At the bottom is a footer area with text and image placeholders where you can attach the brand logo, brand assets, team images, next iteration details, and more. 

All the text content you and your team add to this template will appear as a content outline in the right-side Outline column. So, the template is highly useful for content-driven teams like bloggers, website developers, digital marketers, etc.

Mural lets you present or share your artboard with the collaborators so that you can present this template in front of a large audience in a remote office, WFH locations, co-working sites, etc.        

Smartsheet

Start Stop Continue template from Smartsheet

Smartsheet, by far, offers the best collection of Start Stop Continue templates. From Agile teams to conventional business departments, anyone can benefit from these Smartsheet templates.

Also, you do not need to sign up for a paid or free account with Smartsheet to use these example documents. You can download them for later use.

However, these formats are available in files like Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Adobe PDF. Hence, you will need to import these files on third-party whiteboard apps for collaboration on retrospective meetings, except for the Google Docs file.

Smartsheet has organized the templates by title, topic, name, usage, and a preview of the actual file. Hence, you can check out the template’s features before downloading. For example, the Start Stop Continue Team Feedback Template offers the followings: 

  • A table of general information like feedback target, date, and supervisor’s name
  • A left-side column to mention the names of the team members
  • Separate columns to record data for Keep (Continue), Start, and Stop items
  • An additional column, Change, to documents required changes

Once you have finalized the document, you can import it to your Smartsheet project boards.      

Lucidspark

Start Stop Continue template from Lucidspark

If you are already using the Lucidspark virtual whiteboard for collaboration, you can import this template into evaluation, review, and Agile Sprint meetings.

This feedback-collecting and aggregating format is a premium asset of the Lucid app environment. Hence, you must be a paid subscriber to access this professional design.

The template contains several text placeholders to record the meeting according to corporate documentation policy. For example, you can write a document title, company name, date and month, team name, and short date.

There are also separate colored columns for data collection of Start, Stop, and Continue list items. The default template comes with three colored sticky notes for each column. You can add more if you need.

The template supports whiteboard screen sharing and real-time collaboration through Lucid app shareable links. Additionally, you can download the document as PDF, image, etc., files for printing, emailing, physical circulation, and more.   

Neatro

Start Stop Continue template from Neatro

Neatro helps your Agile and digital business teams become more efficient and productive by offering a sleek and straightforward Start Stop Continue template.

The template consists of various color tags, icons, card statuses, and comment boxes for effective retrospective meetings after completing one Sprint and starting the next one.

Once you sign up for the app and choose Start Stop Continue from the library of Neatro Retrospectives, the app will ask you to enter a meeting title, schedule the meeting, etc. One interesting feature of this template is an icebreaker game with 200 questions that help the team develop unique ideas.

Inside the retrospective board, invited team members can submit their comments for the list items like Start, Stop, and Continue. You can also use a timer for your team members to gather feedback faster.    

Final Words

Now you know the definition, theory, and applications of the Start Stop Continue retrospective facilitation technique. You must be able to apply this technique in your team or project when the necessity arrives. 

You can practice this review and feedback technique in the real-world examples mentioned in this article. However, the scope is huge, and you can go creative in identifying professional and business circumstances where you can successfully apply Start Stop Continue and benefit tremendously. 

To help you further, the article also outlines the ultimate list of cloud-based whiteboard and flowcharting tools where you can get ready-to-use Start Stop Continue templates for free.

If you love experimenting with your Agile teams and processes, you must also read about Scrumban methodology for Agile and DevOps managers.