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Reach Your Next Goal with the Sailboat Retrospective Method


Imagine that you’re on the last leg of a sailboat race. You’ve made the final turn, captured the lead, and must plot an efficient course to the finish line.

How are you going to create a successful outcome?



You’ll need to consider the progress you’ve made, what obstacles are in your way, and the goals you want to accomplish.


When your evaluations are accurate, you’ve got an excellent chance to win the race. If your calculations are off, even by a little, someone else can steal your victory at the last second.


That’s why the sailboat retrospective method is a valuable template to follow whenever your agile team needs help visualizing the steps that lead to victory.

What Are the Four Elements of the Sailboat Retrospective Method?


In his book Innovation Games, Luke Hohmann introduced the idea behind the sailboat retrospective method. The original design was a team-building exercise that encouraged people to share creative ideas in a safe environment.


With the retrospective tool evolving to be a daily tool that agile teams can use to manage complications regularly, it’s crucial to know the four elements the method offers to encourage results.


1. Rocks represent risks.

If a sailboat hits a rock, it could get damaged and sink. Even if the vessel survives, it could get hung up in that location.


When your scrum starts breaking down, your team can face new obstacles because they’re not working together as efficiently. Identifying these risks earlier in the journey makes it easier to avoid them.


2. Anchors are a metaphor for delays.

Anchors are meant to keep a sailboat in the same spot. This tool works well when stormy weather hits, allowing the vessel to maintain its position while gaining resistance to capsizing.


Even a strong breeze won’t move the sailboat further if you throw an anchor during calm seas.

There are times when you need to stand firm as a team during crisis situations. You must also know what inhibits an agile team from pushing forward when the conditions are right to gain speed.


The sailboat retrospective model makes it easier to identify the significant challenges or bottlenecks that could be slowing you down.


3. Winds help a sailboat gain speed.

A good wind lets a sailboat achieve its top speed. When you recognize what went well in your previous efforts as a team, it’s easier to duplicate those results the next time.


 4. Land represents the goal or vision to achieve.

Sailboats win a race by crossing a defined finish line. If you’re lost at sea on a vessel, the goal might be to reach land. Using this metaphor, this retrospective effort uses the final element to represent the desired outcome. It can be a short- or long-term goal.


Could the Sailboat Retrospective Method Help You?


People tend to retain information better when visually orientated data provides hands-on opportunities. The sailboat retrospective method accomplishes both while creating approachable conversations that use a team’s diversity to its advantage.


With the right template covering the four essential elements, you can plot a course to a positive outcome with this methodology at any time. If you’ve never implemented this idea before, now is the perfect time to get started!



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