Agile Delivery

The Sail Boat Retrospective

October 31, 2020
3 mins read
Ben Willmott

Retrospectives can sometimes get repetitive and the last thing you want is the team going through the motions with their feedback. The Sail Boat approach gets the team up and involved right from the start and working together. 

The Sail Boat retrospective is a great technique to gather feedback from the team in a collaborative and visual way. This retrospective is typically used with Scrum teams but it works for any type of team looking for feedback.  

The running time of this retrospective can vary but I’ve put some durations for each section as a guide, but feel to adjust these. 

For other retrospective ideas take a look at The Car Brand retrospective or the Thank You retrospective.

The Set-Up

Typically 1 Scrum team of 7-9 members 

  1. Book a room with plenty of wall space
  2. Bring pens
  3. Bring Post-It notes 
  4. A1 Paper or a whiteboard 
  5. Bluetack
  6. Bring some treats (if possible)

Starting the Session (5 mins)     

  1. For this retrospective, you’re going to need everyone to help with creating the feedback wall as it requires some drawing.
  2. You need to draw the following, an Island, a boat on the sea, the wind blowing the boat forward, an anchor holding the boat back and something in the boats way that could stop it completely. 
  3. The island is where you want to get too as a team, so the goals and vision. This could just be for the next sprint or the project. 
  4. The boat is the team. 
  5. The wind is what is helping the team get to these goals. 
  6. The anchor is what holds the team back. 
  7. Finally, the rocks or whatever you draw is what is stopping the team.
Here’s a great example I used from
Here's a great example I used from

Getting creative (10 mins)

  1. Now ask for volunteers to start drawing the scene. 
  2. ideally, you want the whole team involved but more than likely one or two will draw out the main structure, make it as big as you can. 
  3. Encourage anyone not drawing to bring it to life with birds in the sky, the sun or you could draw each other on the boat. Remember to time-box this though.
  4. Once finished take a step back and admire the teams work.

Agreeing on the vision or goals (10 mins)     

  1. Next, ask the team to create their goals or vision by adding Post Its to the island. 
  2. This may be quick as you could already be in agreement. 
  3. Or you could gather multiple thoughts through the Post Its added.
  4. Discuss and agree on the vision or goals.

Getting feedback (20 mins) 

  1. Next, you’re going to gather the bulk of the feedback. 
  2. Ask the team to add anything that is holding them back as a team and place the Post Its on and around the anchor. 
  3. Anything that is going well and you want to continue doing, ask the team to add their Post Its on and around the wind behind the boat.
  4. Now add Post Its on what could stop the team working well or risks to the project and add them on and around the rocks in front of the boat.

Voting (10 mins)

  1. Once you’ve filled your Sail Boat scene, you need to focus on the highest priority feedback. 
  2. For each section, rocks, wind and anchor, ask the team to vote on their top three Post Its. Use a simple tick as a vote. 
  3. Ask the team to do the voting at the same time to reduce following what each other team member are voting for.

Wrapping up (10 mins)

  1. Once you have a wall full of feedback and everyone has voted, count up the votes and highlight the top three for each category (rock, wind and anchor)
  2. Now agree who will own any of the top three if they require an action against them. This shouldn’t just be the Scrum Master taking ownership of these actions.
  3. Then ask for feedback on how the session went so you can improve it for next time.
  4. Take a picture of the teams work and share!

Ben Willmott
Ben is Head of Agile Practices at the London based creative agency Karmarama where he creates bespoke ways or working for his clients and teams. Ben is also the founder of The PPM Academy specializing in coaching Project Management, Agile Delivery and how to be more productive at home and work.

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