In Techniques, Training


I use the sailboat retrospective as an activity to gather information for Sprint Retrospectives, Release Retrospectives or even when I go in as a coach to find out where teams are. It is a fun way to gather opportunities, risks and problems.

I believe I may have been inspired for this retrospective by Innovation Games Speed Boat game used for Identifying features that are holding you and your project / product back.

How do I use the Sailboat Retrospective?

I draw a picture, you don’t have to be an artist just see below:

The idea here is for the team to imagine that they’re on a boat. On the right hand-side is the Promised Land  – the best development environment they can imagine. An effective team who can take pride in their work, filled with happy customers, opportunities for learning and growth. I usually get the team to create some kind of Vision for what the Promised Land looks like.

However, there are anchors that are holding them back and stopping them making progress towards the Promised Land (These are the problems). In front of them, there be pirates, rocks and other obstacles that could stop the team/organization getting to where it needs to be or even sink the boat completely (These are the risks). There are however opportune winds, things in the organisation that we can take advantage. These fill our sails and navigate a course to the Promised Land (These are the opportunities).

At this point I ask the team what are the;
• opportune winds that will help us propel our ship to the Promised Land?
• anchors that are holding us back?
• rocks and pirates that can sink our ship (or at least do some damage)?

One problem, risk, or opportunity per sticky that is written clearly. I get them to do this individually so that everyone gets to contribute. They are given 5-7 minutes to individually brainstorm.

Once the 5 – 7 minutes is up. I allow time for each person to go up and place their stickies on the picture and explain them to the group.

The group then gets them to organize/filter them however they want. Before moving onto driving out some actions.

Have you tried this technique with your team? Share your results in the comments below.

Author: Mark Summers

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