Stop – Keep Doing – Start

Simple Questions for Improving Performance

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"Stop – Keep Doing – Start" provides action focused feedback.

© iStockphoto/pagadesign

Feedback is essential for our professional growth: it helps us identify and build the skills we need for success. But asking for feedback can be daunting, particularly when we fear that it might not be wholly positive.

In this article, we'll look at "Stop – Keep Doing – Start", a tool that helps us ask for focused, action-based feedback.

Overview

The SKS (Stop – Keep Doing – Start) Process is the formal name for a short set of questions that you can use when you ask for feedback. The questions are simple:

  • What should I stop doing?
  • What should I keep doing?
  • What should I start doing?

Phil Daniels, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University, is credited with devising the process. It's effective for several reasons.

  • First, it's reassuring: The questions push others to think of specific things that you do well, as well as encouraging them to say what you could do better.
  • The process is action-focused: The comments made give you a practical insight into the impact of your behavior on others, and explain precisely what you need to do to improve.
  • Finally, the questions are quick. In many cases, they allow people to give good-quality feedback in just a few minutes.

Tip 1:

Stop – Keep Doing – Start was initially devised as a way of requesting help and feedback. However, you can also use it when giving feedback  .

Tip 2:

The process works best when the questions are asked orally: It's not intended to replace more formal feedback processes, such as performance reviews.

How to Use the Process

What Should I STOP Doing?

Look closely at the behavior that you've been asked to stop doing.

  • Do you understand the feedback, and why it's important to the person who gave it? If not, ask for clarification.
  • Is this behavior closely tied to your personality (for example, if you're an introvert, are people encouraging you to be more outgoing)? If so, you may need to work extra-hard to change, as new behaviors could feel uncomfortable at first.

    Consider taking a personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®  , to understand your personality better, and to consider how it affects how you work with others. You may also want to build in longer-term opportunities for feedback, to ensure that you continue to make progress.

  • What opportunities will changing your behavior create, and how will this change improve your working life? It is often very motivating to think about the positive impact that change could bring.

It can be upsetting to learn that you're doing something that your boss or your peers want you to stop. However, remember that they will hopefully be looking at this from a business perspective, and not making a personal criticism. Try to manage your own feelings  , and focus on the value in what they're saying.

What Should I KEEP Doing?

These are the actions and behaviors that your colleagues appreciate. To understand how you could incorporate these tasks more fully into your role, think about the following questions:

  • Do any of these suggestions surprise you? If so, why?
  • Do any of these behaviors resonate with you emotionally? For example, do you experience a state of flow   when you're engaged in them? Note down what appeals to you about these activities, and use the MPS Process   to build more of them into your work.
  • What specific skills are you developing as a result these actions? Are you using strengths that you didn't realize you had? If so, how could you apply these strengths to other projects?

What Should I START Doing?

The feedback that you receive with this last question points to gaps in your current performance. These suggestions can help you look at issues that you might not have addressed until now.

  • Look carefully at the things that your colleagues think you should start doing. What advantages will they provide to you and to others?
  • Do any of these tasks, projects, or behaviors make you feel anxious or afraid? If so, have you avoided these things because of a fear of failure   or some other blindspot  ?

    Think carefully about why you haven't addressed these things in the past, and what you can do to overcome your reluctance to start them. (If you've just been "putting things off", learn how to overcome procrastination   and accomplish more.)

  • Do any of these new activities require skills or information that you don't have? If so, create a plan for gaining the skills you need   to succeed.
  • If, after reflection, you still don't understand why starting something new is important, ask for clarification from the person who gave you the feedback. You may also benefit from some coaching   on the subject.

Tip:

If your workload is already large, adding new tasks or projects might feel overwhelming. If so, make sure that you prioritize effectively  , so you can work the most valuable suggestions into your schedule.

Key Points

Stop – Keep Doing – Start is a simple way to gather guidance and feedback using three simple questions:

  • What should I stop doing?
  • What should I keep doing?
  • What should I start doing?

You can use this tool to ask for feedback about your own work. However, it's also useful when giving feedback to someone else, or for enhancing a mentoring or coaching relationship.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

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Comments (2)
  • zuni wrote Over a month ago
    Stop, Start, Continue is a tool that I use all the time. I find that leaders of people struggle to provide feedback or coach employees. These simple questions provide a great starting point and lead to rich and productive discussions about performance.

    I also use Stop, Start, Continue in project debriefings in place of Done Well, Do Better. For the same reason that it works in coaching and providing feedback, these questions assist in producing a thorough analysis of a project.

    Zuni
  • slincourt wrote Over a month ago
    So simple, yet so effective. I wish I had that idea in my pocket when trying to reach out to a boss incapable of giving feedback without rambling about his own successes or hiting on others failure. This way we can focus these types into giving the answers we need to do a good job. Love it

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