Stephen A. Fuqua (saf)

a Bahá'í, software engineer, and nature lover in Austin, Texas, USA

Start Stop Continue Stickies

Sometimes you need to go back to the basics - including basic technology. In this case, I mean sticky notes. Yes, they are a remarkable form of technology. I like doing everything the digital way. I abhor using paper when not necessary, because of the waste factor. Although I love the idea of note cards for user story development, I’ve been thankful that they are impractical for my development team. But, I think it is time to heed good advice.


For several months now I’ve been running bi-weekly retrospectives. Following good advice found many places (initially in Integrating Agile Development in the Real World), the retrospectives focus on:

  • listing…
    • things that are going well,
    • things that are not going well,
    • and opportunities for improvement;
  • having a brief discussion on solutions for the 2nd and 3rd bullets;
  • prioritizing the list; and
  • assigning takeaways.

Chapter 19 of Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Team refers to the listing practice in more simple terms: start, stop, and continue. And they provide this advice…

All team members write “start,” “stop,” and “continue” items on sticky notes, and then during the retrospective meeting they put the stickies on the board and group them by topic. … It can be hard to remember the past two weeks, much less an entire release, if that’s what your retrospective covers. Research different creative approaches to reflecting on your team’s experiences.

How obvious and true! So let’s hand out some color coded‡, blank, sticky notes in advance, just a small stack to everyone on the team (‡ pink = stop, yellow/or other = continue, green = start). Ask them to fill out as things occur to them. When it comes time for the retrospective, bring all that still seem relevant. Better yet, put them on a piece of paper, slap that paper down on the copier/scanner, and create a digital version. We can quickly chop up the digital versions, arrange them in any one of various Office/type products, and have a nice (and easy) picture instead of boring meeting notes.

It is my hope that this process will:

  • make it easier to remember start/stop/continue items in space in between meetings,
  • and re-emphasize the importance of this collective feedback process.

This is nothing breathtaking or revolutionary on my part. If it works, it just means I needed to relax and rely on technology to help fix a problem — the simplest technology possible. Sticky notes. If it doesn’t work out, hopefully someone will be kind of enough to write that down on a pink note and bring it to a future retrospective.

Posted with : Tech, Software Development Life Cycle, Agile / Scrum