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 back.
I draw a picture, you don’t have to be an artist just see below:
The idea here is that the team are on a boat. On the right hand-side is the Promised Land it is the best development environment they can imagine: an effective team who can take pride in their work, 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, stopping them making progress towards the Promised Land (These are the problems). In front of them there be pirates, rocks and other obstacles which 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 organization that we can take advantage of to fill our sails and navigate a course to the Promised Land (These are the opportunities).
So ask the team:
• What are the opportune winds that will help us propel our ship to the Promised Land
• What are the anchors that are holding us back
• What are the rocks and pirates that can sink our ship (or at least do some damage)
One problem, risk, or opportunity per sticky and ask them to write clearly. I get them to do this individually so that everyone gets to contribute.
5-7 minutes to individually brainstorm
Allow time for each person to go up and place their stickies on the picture while the others listen.
You can then get them to organize/filter them however you want. Before moving onto driving out some actions.
This post is republished from my old blog
At the Munich Scrum Gathering (2009), Harvey Wheaton from Supermassive Games did a presentation entitled “Growing Self Organising Teams”, which was exceptional and I found it very inspiring, the presentation can be found on the Scrum Alliance web-site. In the presentation one slide caught my attention and it was how the team had used a Cool Wall, inspired by Top Gear (popular car show in the UK). I thought that would be an excellent tool for a retrospective and used it at the next opportunity, this is how I used it. Picture not great, but you get the idea…
Using the Cool Wall to Gather Data
The team was asked brainstorm team practices/team customs/patterns/ways of working, each team member then took it in turn to add their practice to the cool wall, and share it with the rest of the team. Sub-zero was for practices where the team felt they were world class, seriously un-cool was reserved for practices that really weren’t working.
I then asked the team to vote for the practice they wanted to work on, I had forgotten my sticky dots so we used marker pens. The team actually picked a practice from Un-Cool as the stuff in seriously un-cool was out of their sphere of influence and the ScrumMaster was dealing with it already.
Using the Cool Wall to Drive out Actions
Once we had selected a practice we had some discussion to understand the root cause. We then moved to generating actions by asking ourselves what we need to do to move this practice one column to the right. Remember you only want a few actions otherwise nothing will get done.
To keep with the car theme I then asked the team to say given their project, what mode of transport they most felt like.
The approach worked well and really helped to create a picture of the work the team does, and uncovered loads of stuff that the ScrumMaster could work on to help the team improve. Also we only spent an hour doing it.