Retrospective: The Sailboat

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The sailboat retrospective

The sailboat retrospective is a good format to use when you want to reflect on your progress towards a specific goal. This goal can be product- or process related.

The Icebreaker

For this template, we selected a fun icebreaker: share a picture of meme that explains the last iteration to you. You shouldn’t go into too much detail during the icebreaker, as the intention is just to get everybody engaged and participating in the retrospective. But, you can ask the participants to share a few words about the picture or meme that they shared, to get some more insights and make it interactive.

The retrospective format

The sailboat retrospective consists of two rounds:

  1. “Our destination”: what’s our goal? This should be the main theme for the retrospective. What are we striving for? As mentioned above, this can be something related to the product that you are building, or it can be something related to the way of working within the team.
  2. The way to our destination
    • “Helping us”: what is currently helping us on our road to achieving this goal? What should we keep doing?
    • “Holding us back”: what is currently holding us back, slowing us down, or preventing us to reach our goal?
    • “Obstacles”: what risks do we see in the future, that could prevent us from reaching the goal? Something that we see happening, but is not yet happening to us today.

After explaining the stages to your team, give everybody a few minutes to write down their thoughts on a post-it. After this, you can do a quick dot voting session to determine the most important one(s) and start with a discussion on those.

First discuss all the post-its in the “Destination” category and come to a conclusion of the goal of the team before discussing the other stages. It’s important that everything you are discussing in the “Helping us”, “Holding us back” and “Obstacles” categories are related to the overall goal that you are trying to achieve as a team.

While having the discussion on a topic, always focus on what’s within the control of the team. Don’t focus too much on external people or factors, but mainly on the things that are within the control of the team to identify improvement actions that the team is able to take. You want to have 1 – 2 action items at the end of the retrospective that you can implement in the next iteration(s). Remember: you will not always have big live changing action items in each retrospective. That’s also not the intention. A small action that brings a small improvements is already very good. Try to improve a little each sprint instead of trying to bring big changes at once.

About last retrospective...

A crucial part of the retrospective is to reflect on the outcome of the previous one! Teams often forget to do this, but it is very important as it gives the team the confirmation that the action items are actually important… And that we want to make sure we improve! There is a section on the top of the template where you can refer to the action items of the last retrospective. Go over them, see how you are doing in regards to them, and decide what to do next.

Rate your retro!

At the very end of the retrospective, I ask the team to quickly rate their retrospective with focus on: 

  1. Did we have a good discussion? Did we speak openly, and respect each others opinion?
  2. Do we have valuable action items? And, are we confident that we will do them in the next sprint?

We also use a feedback wall where team members can share their feedback on the retrospective. As the facilitator, you can encorporate this feedback into the next retrospective session.

Other things about the format

On the very top of the format, you can see 2 elements:

  • Action items / experiments: this is the place where you would write down the action items during the retrospective. This makes it easy to summarize them at the end of the session.
  • Idea for the next retrospective: I always like to foresee an area where people can give feedback or give input for the next retrospective. This can be feedback on the current format, ideas for a new format, tips, general feedback… Anything that can help us make the next retrospective even better! I would not make it required for people to give input in this, make them feel free to give input when they come up with something.

Download the template (for free)

You can download the Miro template for free below:

If you don’t have a premium version of Miro, you can also download the picture at the top of the screen and create the board in Google Drawings.


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