Start, stop, keep!

Lachy Gray, 3 min read

Start, stop, keep!

One of my core focuses at Yarno is to support and grow a healthy culture, so that everyone can do their best work. I've found Start/Stop/Keep to be a valuable exercise that contributes towards this.

What is it

Each quarter I run a team strategy session, to align the whole team on what's most important for that quarter. A week before the strategy session, I ask all Yarnoers to answer the following questions with the previous quarter in mind:

  • Rate the quarter out of 10
  • What went well?
  • What could have gone better?
  • What energises you at Yarno?
  • What drains you at Yarno?
  • What should Yarno start doing?
  • What should Yarno stop doing?
  • What should Yarno keep doing?

We add our answers to a public page, and we all read each other's answers.
I then pull out key themes from all the Start/Stop/Keep answers, and we discuss them in the strategy session. When there were fewer of us, we'd each talk through all our feedback in the strategy session. But as the team grew in size this became impractical.

Why we do it

We believe regular feedback is the lifeblood of our culture. It helps us become better Yarnoers and better people.

Without regular feedback, we miss out on a critical element of learning, and our chances of becoming better Yarnoers and better people are at risk.

The quarterly Start/Stop/Keep encourages Yarnoers to speak up. It's an opportunity for them to shape Yarno and our culture. And to get things off their chest if they need to.

Asking for Start/Stop/Keep feedback is one element of our broader feedback approach that includes a feedback framework - Courageous Feedback, regular feedback practice, and 1:1s with Yarnoers and their team lead. And while courageous feedback and 1:1 meetings promote 1 to 1 feedback in a safe space, the quarterly Start/Stop/Keep feedback is a 1 to many exercise. The Yarnoer communicates their feedback to the entire team.

Now you may be thinking "We'd never do that. Everyone would go to town on management and each other!" or "Yeah right, no one would write what they're genuinely thinking".

I admit the first few times we ran it I was unsure how it would go. Would Yarnoers be comfortable to say what they think? Would it highlight deficiencies in my leadership and decisions I'd made? Scary!

The good news is that any doubts I had were quickly extinguished. The team appeared to embrace the concept, and have shared more direct feedback over time. Fresh perspectives are introduced by new Yarnoers as they join.

Example feedback

Here's some feedback that Yarnoers shared in our most recent team strategy session. We went through each piece of feedback and discussed them as a team. This process can be cathartic and insightful, as different perspectives and opinions are shared and heard.

What should Yarno start doing?

  • Educate the wider team more regularly about the product
  • Create a smoother onboarding for customers and subject matter experts
  • Everyone to consider sales in their day to day roles

The Start list usually captures insightful and actionable ideas. Where possible each piece of Start feedback is captured in our team OKRs for the quarter. We define these in the team strategy session too.

What should Yarno stop doing?

  • Relying too heavily on individual Yarnoers

The Stop list is usually the shortest. That may be an accurate reflection of what Yarnoers think, or it may be a lack of comfortability if it's a big STOP that a Yarnoer would prefer to share in a 1:1 with their team lead.

As a small business, we all inevitably wear many hats. However, this can lead to points of failure if we don't prepare accordingly. We found this out the hard way recently when a Yarnoer suddenly got quite sick. It's been a wake-up call for us to prioritise documenting processes and how-tos. And running thought experiments like - what happens if Lachy's out of action for 2 weeks?

What should Yarno keep doing?

  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Supporting and caring for each other
  • Being a flexible workplace
  • Communicating transparently
  • Celebrating the wins

The Keep list is usually the longest and is the one I'm most proud of. We find out whether or not the initiatives that we've all invested significant time and energy into are valued by the broader team.

How could Start/Stop/Keep level up your feedback?

Lachy Gray

Lachy's our Managing Director. He's our resident rationalist and ideas man. He also reads way too many books for our liking.

More from Lachy

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