Start | Stop | Continue — A Great Evaluation Tool

StoplightAs we move from one year into the next or even just from one project into the next, it is important to have a way of evaluating what came before. Having a quick, simple way of looking at the good, bad, and ugly in any system gives us fodder for how we might like things to go in the future.

A while ago, I came across an activity called Start | Stop | Continue. It was a tool I was actually taught by one of my clients who asked that I facilitate the process for him. It seemed simple enough and, happily, ended up giving him solid information about — what was for him — a human resources project.

It wasn’t until I was looking for an easy evaluation tool for another client to use (I was writing a strategic plan workbook for them), that I revisited Start | Stop | Continue. It was the perfect tool for the job — simple, quick, and (most importantly) offered immediate results.

Passing the Torch

So, I’d like to pass Start | Stop | Continue on to you now. All you need is to gather some people, make a tea or another delicious beverage, and start the process that I’ll outline below. If you have a large company, find representatives from each area of your business so you have a nice sample of who really works to make the company what it is. If it’s just you, that’s perfect too.

Start | Stop | Continue

  1. Gather around a whiteboard or big paper. Depending on your company culture, you may want to offer everyone the chance to write or draw their ideas. You may also decide that a discussion is best with one person recording. You know your group the best and can make this determination — just please know that there are a multitude of options and that they’re all okay
  2. Give some context and boundaries for what you’re asking for feedback about. If you’re evaluating a specific project, make sure that is clear. If you’re looking at overall feedback on company policies, culture, and work environment, let them know. This step will help avoid tangents and wrong turns later on
  3. Brainstorm on what needs to “Start.” Is there something currently missing from company policy? Is there a process that needs to be developed for future projects? Is there a marketing target that your company has been missing out on? Just because it’s brainstormed here, doesn’t mean it’s set in stone as an activity. Just get all the ideas out onto the paper or whiteboard
  4. Brainstorm on what needs to “Stop.” Is there a policy that is unnecessarily limiting? Is there a layer of bureaucracy that can be lifted off a process? Is there an activity/product/service that is no longer serving its purpose or hitting its targets? These are the types of things you want to discuss here. Again, this is not the time to take offense or poo poo ideas. Record, clarify, and add notes in as necessary
  5. Finally, “Continue” gets its time in the spotlight. What works really well? What process/service/product is foundational for your company? What new activity is doing amazingly well and should be kept? This doesn’t mean that there are no improvements for these items, just that they need to stick around
  6. Review the information for clarity. You’re going to be reviewing this information later, so make sure that all the doodles, notes, and scratches make sense. Ask the group to clarify if there are areas you don’t really remember the details for. This is an important step. Please don’t skip it
  7. Ensure that the record is permanent. Did you use a whiteboard to record the ideas? Take a photo. A big piece of paper? Fold it up and store it safely until the next step

I now want you to take some time away from the results of your Start | Stop | Continue exercise. Go home for the evening or weekend. Don’t think about it.

The Results and What To Do With Them

When you return, pull out the record and look at it with fresh eyes. This is why the review/clarify stage was so important! Look for trends in the results. Look for ideas that will solve nagging issues. Prioritize them, flesh them out, and decide what to move on and what to leave for now. You cannot do everything, so be discerning.

Now, write some goals for the year (or quarter or to be done before the next project — just be sure to add a time component). There is magic in the number 3 for some reason, so I always suggest three goals. If you have a shorter amount of time, however, feel free to choose one item. It’s much better to move forward in one area than to flap around in several.

Let Me Know How it Goes

Please feel free to send me an email or comment below. I would love to hear how this goes for you!