What is a Sailboat Retrospective?

The Agile Sailboat Retrospective is a retrospective technique where you and your agile team members imagine the last sprint as a sailboat. It is a visual method for your team to identify what has propelled the project forward (the island) and what has held it back (the anchor).

How to apply the Sailboat Retrospective?

The team gathers and focuses sequentially on the following questions:

  • What has advanced us this sprint?
  • What has hindered or slowed us down this sprint?
  • What risks emerged in this sprint?
  • Has the objective changed this sprint?

Team members now record their answers to these questions on individual Post-Its and stick them to the corresponding spot on the image of a sailboat. Similar topics can then be grouped together and your team can discuss its findings and vote on what actions to take to improve the next sprint.

mtta und mttr reports

IImage is taken from Miro template

The use of the sailboat metaphor makes it much more accessible and digestible. A team does not need to be well-versed in agile concepts and terminologies to understand how this technique works for them.

Moreover, many retrospective techniques primarily look at what went well during a sprint and what didn't. This format digs deeper, challenging teams to figure out what benefits and harms their project, timeline, and cooperation.

The 4 areas of the metaphor in detail:

Island / Land (the goal)

The land or island is the boat's destination and thus a wonderful visual representation of the sprint goal. It can contain both long-term and short-term goals for the agile team.

The Wind (what accelerated us?)

The wind propels the sailboat forward. In this framework, it symbolizes everything that accelerated the team to achieve the goal faster in this sprint.

Rocks (the risks)

The rocks represent a potential risk or obstacle to your sprint. These can persist for a long time if your team doesn't find a way to tackle them.

Anchor (decelerating obstacles)

An anchor is the perfect representation of the things that have slowed down your sprint. What created major bottlenecks or challenges? What has prevented your agile team from making as much progress as possible?

By the way, the Speedboat and Pirateboat Retrospectives are extremely similar to the Sailboat Retrospective and aim for the same goal.

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