Generative relationships (STAR) an efficient way to reveal patterns and provoke action

In Collaboration, facilitation, Liberating Structures, Retrospectives, Trust by chuzzeteLeave a Comment

In this post, I will share an experience I had with an Agile team that I was helping and how we used #LiberatingStructure Generative Relationships (STAR) to reveal relationship patterns that create surprising value or dysfunction.

My purpose/intention

When we started the retrospective, I told the team I wanted to help them understand how they work together and identify changes that they can make to improve group performance. To get us there, I proposed to set ourselves in mode “believe before seeing“, one of the #LiberatingStructures principles, and give it a try to the Generative Relationships (STAR) #LiberatingStructure


Given that we were only four people, I brought a chair and a printed copy of the Generative Relationship STAR diagram for each participant.

I put up a big poster on the wall, with the questions each participant would ask itself to assess individually, its views of the team relationships, considering the following categories:


Tuning, Talking, Listening

Action Opportunities

Reason to work together

Sequence of steps and timing

  1. I asked participants to individually assess where the team was in regard to each of the four elements (5 mins.) mentioned above
  2. Then in pairs, I invited them to compare each others results and see which patterns emerged (3 minutes).
  3. And then we did it all together (3 minutes)


We tried to identify relationship patterns using the instructions suggested on the web site:

Small groups decide what type of results are generated by the pattern of interaction they have identified (e.g., high Tuning + no Action = we get along well but accomplish little, high Action + low Tuning = routine results with no innovation, high Tuning + high Separateness + high Action + low Reason = many false starts, etc.).

And it didn’t workout. Participants got confused and started to lose interest on the exercise. One of them said that the interpretations given to the result, weren’t reflecting how their relationships were going.


Immediately, I asked them to plot their results together, on a STAR diagram I had put on the wall, and then brainstorm to identify action steps to boost elements that needed attention.

They focused on those elements that had scored low, in this case, the Reason to work together and Tuning, Talking, Listening. I asked then to answer the question: What first steps can we take right now?” and the answer was straight forward. They proposed to spend time on training each other to be able to increase versatility and get more Tuned over the sprint.

Shared feelings

First of all, the exercise was done in 15 minutes. It was extremely easy to do and powerful to help the team spot areas of relationship improvement.

Next time, I would spend time warming up the group first, with a question that would get them connected to this exercise. I felt it went flat and the group didn’t digeste it. Something else I would try is to invite them to plot their results all together on the big poster, and then go for a 1-2-ALL to identify relationship patterns emerging from the whole group and see how that goes.

Call to action

  • Did you find what I wrote appealing and want to see more?
  • Would you like to experience the surprising power of the #LiberatingStructures?

Here some options that I have prepared for you to keep us growing together:

All the best,


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