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Facilitation Techniques: Start Stop Continue

We have had a vision for many years to write a comprehensive library of facilitation techniques. This post will form part of the library and we will add to this list over time.

What is the Start-Stop-Continue activity?

The Start-Stop-Continue framework is a discussion style activity that aides in idea generation and group sharing. It is useful to stimulate a conversation with a group or individual around a specific topic(s). The activity is relatively simple to run regardless of your experience as a facilitator. Despite being simple it is powerful and capable of generating meaningful and actionable discussions. 

How to conduct the Start-Stop-Continue activity?

At the most basic level, the framework is as simple as asking an individual or group what they think needs to be started, stopped and continued around a given topic. This model provides a huge range in terms of flexibility and application. The method can be applied to an individual, group or even oneself.

  1. Identify the Topic(s) - Identify the topic(s) to be discussed and create an overarching question for each of the 3 categories. That is, a question for the start, stop and continue categories for each topic you plan to discuss. When exploring multiple topics using this method, we suggest working through the start, stop and continue questions for one topic, then move on to the next topic. 

  2. Explore START - Ask any questions you can to help the group explore the things the individual or group believe need to start happening for the topic in question.

  3. Explore STOP - Ask any questions you can to help the group explore the things the individual or group believe need to cease happening.

  4. Explore CONTINUE - Ask any questions you can to help the group explore the things the individual or group believe need to keep happening.

  5. Capture the Items Discussed - When working with a group we prefer to use post-it notes to involve the audience. We ask the audience to write down each item they believe needs to start, stop and continue on a separate post-it note. This allows the participants to move around and the post-its to be organised into topic clusters.

  6. Explore and Agree on Next Steps - After exploring and discussing each category, work with the participant(s) to create an action plan for moving forward.

We like the START-STOP-CONTINUE model for its flexibility and wide ranging application. It is also a favourite because it tends to produce actionable and meaningful output.

Facilitator Tips

The skill in facilitating this activity is balancing the discussion between participants while still driving to an outcome. It is important to allow the participants to explore their ideas but it is also important to keep it focused on the goal.

When facilitating this activity, it is important as the facilitator to create a safe environment. This means allowing people space and time to think and respond, reframing negativity/criticism and shutting down any toxic behaviours from participants.

Depending on the purpose of the discussion, it is important to have a way to capture all the ideas. Post-it notes can be a great way to get your audience involved. Flip charts on the wall can be a way for facilitators to record the ideas from the group. Ensure that whichever way you choose you capture clear enough notes in enough detail to allow you to take action.


Examples & Variations of the Start-Stop-Continue activity?

Here are a few examples of how we might apply the START-STOP-CONTINUE model:

Example 1: Personal Reflection

As a model for personal reflection the START-STOP-CONTINUE model is a great tool to explore a topic. For example, if we were conducting a personal review of our own performance as a leader, we might apply the framework to ask:

  • As a leader, what might I need to start doing?
  • As a leader, what might I need to stop doing?
  • As a leader, what do I need to continue doing?
Example 2: Strategy Session

The START-STOP-CONTINUE model is often used as a part of strategy development. It is a great tool for encouraging discussion and debate about what a team or organisation should start, stop and continue doing. For example, if we were discussing how we might improve customer service in a call centre, we might propose and discuss:

  • What do our customer service team members need to start doing?
  • What do our customer service team members need to stop doing?
  • What do our customer service team members need to continue doing?
Example 3: Agile Team Reviewing a Sprint

An increasingly common application of the START-STOP-CONTINUE model is as a framework for an Agile sprint retrospective. When a team completes a sprint and is looking to set up their next one, the model can be useful to explore the results of the previous sprint and what to work on next. 

  • What tasks do we need to start next?
  • What might we need to stop investing time in?
  • What needs to continue into the next sprint?
Example 4: Performance Feedback

Another way the START-STOP-CONTINUE model can be applied is to a performance feedback discussion. The model provides a framework for the person providing the feedback to follow. For example, a leader might deliver performance based feedback to a team member using the model, for example, “John, something I would like to see you start doing is to listen to others more closely before you jump in with an answer. Something I would like to ensure we stop doing is coming in late. I really want to see you continue your focus on delivering amazing customer service to our customers.”

Trevor O'Sullivan

Trevor O'Sullivan

General Manager. Since the early 2000s, Trevor has worked with thousands of Talent Management professionals to develop and apply assessment-based talent management solutions for selecting, developing and managing people. Trevor is an active member of the TTI Success Insights (TTISI) Global Advisory Council, contributes to TTISI product development and is a regular presenter at TTISI-R3. He is honoured to have received multiple Blue Diamond Awards and, more recently, the Bill Brooks Impact Award recognising his contributions to the TTISI global network.

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