What is the Starfish Retrospective?

The Starfish Retrospective is an Agile project management exercise that forces Scrum teams to take a step back and question the relative effectiveness of the processes and practices being put into place for getting a project off the ground.

This retrospective is called a “Starfish” because it asks teams to organize their insights and feedback across five key categories (aka, the five points of a starfish):

How to run a Starfish Retrospective

Step 1
The facilitator should give participants around five to ten minutes to jot down ideas on sticky notes for each of the five categories above. Each sticky note should represent only one idea.

Be sure to use “polling booth mode” to ensure participants don’t inadvertently influence each other with the ideas they choose to submit for consideration. As a best practice, be sure to assign each category a different sticky note color to keep things organized visually.

Step 2
Once the time cap has been reached, the facilitator reads aloud the participants' sticky notes placed on the (physical or virtual) board. If something isn’t clear on one of the sticky notes, the participant who submitted can add a bit of clarification. Additionally, this is the point when other participants can ask questions and discuss the ideas shared in more detail.

Step 3
Following the discussion in Step 2, the facilitator gives participants another five to ten minutes to hone in on ideas for improvement and write them down on sticky notes. Once all ideas have been submitted, the facilitator should take a moment to group together similar ideas before sharing them with the team and then putting them up for a vote.

Step 4
Finally, the facilitator gives each participant an opportunity to vote for the three areas of improvement to be implemented during the next sprint. The three sticky notes with the most votes will be deemed the “winners” of this exercise and put into action immediately.

Tips and advice from an Agile Coach

Naya Luceau, Agile Coach and Scrum Master, has hosted many Starfish Retrospectives. To make this a collaborative experience for the entire team, she recommends the following:

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Naya Luceau Naya Luceau, freelance Coach Agile & Scrum Master. Blog: Moi, c’est Naya.

Suggested resources for learning more about the Starfish Retrospective