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Creating a Yearly Retrospective with Start. Stop. Keep.

Start Stop Keep for New Years

New Year’s resolutions are sooo last year! Really, creating resolutions, and inevitably breaking them, has become so cliché that it’s not even worth writing an article about. However, there is something to be gained by looking back on the last year and forward to the new year and thinking about how you have grown — or didn’t grow — and how you would like to become a better man, father, husband, leader, etc. in the new year. By using a simple technique preferred by software development teams and manufacturing engineers to become more efficient at their job, you can formulate a personal or family oriented betterment plan without swearing to some flaky resolution!

Scrum & The Retrospective

I’ll do my best not to get too geeky here. While Scrum may be a software development life-cycle practice, it is really born out of problem\resolution scenarios that work on effective teams. Much of Scrum can be utilized by all types of job families where something fairly complex needs to be created.

What the Heck is Scrum?

Rugby_scrum_1904

A rugby team in scrum 1904

If you are a rugby man then you may have heard of the term Scrum. My understanding, please correct me if I am wrong, is that a Scrum is like a huddle in which the players hook together with their arms and opposing sides press forward and attempt to gain control of the ball using only their feet. Software developers have likened this process to that of getting a product completed and published: Though the goal is to move the product (ball) forward, there is always opposition, and the best way to accomplish the task is to unite the team (lock arms) and move as one unit while still trusting each developer (team-mate) to do their share of work. Out of this understanding came the Agile methodology of Scrum which is used by successful development teams and manufacturing teams as well.

The Retrospective

One of the principle tenants of Scrum is to continually improve the team and make them more efficient. This is done during the “retrospective” cycle of Scrum. After a development cycle, usually a few weeks to a month, a brief meeting is held to talk about what the team can do to improve. Like most things in Scrum everything is kept lightweight so that the team can focus on getting work done rather than process. A simple list of items is created that the team can refer to throughout the next development cycle to gauge how they are doing:

Start – Items the team would like to begin doing to improve efficiency or morale

Stop – Items the team wants to stop doing which they consider wasteful or harmful to productivity or morale

Keep\Continue – Items the team has begun doing that they want to ensure continue

While the retrospective is better in shorter cycles, say every month or quarter, doing it yearly is also effective when there are larger goals and habits that we want to work on.

The Yearly Retrospective

Just like the retrospective in software development, the yearly retro uses a simple Start, Stop, Keep\Continue system.

Using a notepad, journal, or spreadsheet, create three columns, Start – Stop – Keep. It’s best to have this somewhere you can refer to in the year to see how you are doing.

Note: Keep it simple! If you try to get too detailed with “how” you’re going to accomplish something, the list will grow to an unmanageable size and you’ll be less likely to refer to it.

What do You Want to Start Doing Next Year?

Think about what is missing from your life as a man or family and what you would do to improve it. Remember, it’s not necessary to figure out the “how” just yet, that can come at a later time. Here are some areas that may get the juices flowing:

  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • Friendships
  • Travel
  • Hobbies
  • Self-defense
  • Survival
  • Knowledge
  • Religion

Keep in mind this isn’t a bucket list or an “if I were rich this is what I would do” list. This is real and practical. Make the list specific and actionable.

For example:

  • Eat more green vegetables
  • Eat more fish
  • Increase leg strength
  • Run a half-marathon

What do You Want to Stop Doing Next Year?

If the Stop’s are just opposites of the Start’s, e.g., I want to Start eating more healthy so I will Stop eating junk, you will find the list redundant. One way to avoid this is by being more specific with your Start’s and Stop’s. Here are a few things I want to Stop doing in the new year.

  • Stop sleeping in on non-workout days
  • Stop watching so much TV
  • Stop eating sugar-loaded things
  • Stop buying from China

You get the idea. You might find it easier to make something a Start rather than a Stop and vice versa. For example, instead of saying Stop buying from China, I might say Start buying USA Made.

What do You Want to Keep Doing Next Year?

Occasionally we begin doing things we would have never thought of and don’t want that to get lost in the mix of new Start’s and Stop’s. While I don’t like to admit it, my wife got me into dancing a bit this year…and I kind of enjoy it. I mean, I’m terrible and stiff, but it is a great workout and a cheap date night.

What are some of the things that you began doing this year and want to continue in the next?

Final Thoughts

After the list is created, mark the calendar with a date (or dates) to review it, either by yourself or with the family, and see how you are doing. Some of the items on the list may have become habitual and can be marked off, while others may start in fits and need more of a focused effort. There is a good chance that not everything on the list will be accomplished by next year, but there is an even greater chance that you’ll get more of them done had you not written them down at all.

Happy New Year!

– Yarbrough

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