"SAILBOAT" method – HOW does it work and WHAT value does it add
Content: Method desription;
Atslēgvārdi: #structure; #flexibility; #game; #analysis; #ideas generation; #focus on strenghts; #risks and issues; #problem solving; #template in Miro tool
The sailboat method is an excellent method to use whenever you start something new or need a refresh. The method provides an easy framework to analyze and summarize
different important factors regards the target to be achieved or the problem
to be solved. Yet, since the method is quite flexible, it can be used in many
different ways. Further, in the article, I'll talk more about specific details.
The widespread potential of the method
The method is one of my favorite methods to use in creative sessions. First of all, it is an excellent method to kick-start any new project, idea, or solution. At once, you can analyze and ideate different factors impacting goal achievement – strengths and buying factors, risks and issues, and solutions for the problem areas. It also will fit very well when teams are stuck in solving some existing problem. In such a case, most focus will be on understanding the situation better, listing the triggers, and ideating the different possible solutions for each of the triggers. And third of all, this is one of those methods that can gather the team together and rebuild trust in achieving the goal, rebuilding engagement. For example, many Agile teams use the method for retrospective meetings because of this.
Content-wise, this method is somewhat close to the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) method widely used in business and projects. However, it's not the same since the sailboat method has significant advantages over the SWOT matrix. The flexibility I've already mentioned. Second – on top of listing problems, this method focuses straightaway on potential solutions for these problems. A fixing mindset is mighty. That leads to the third advantage – this method is much more exciting and engaging for the team to be part of. And that is very important.
The wind in sails, and let's go to the sea!
The flexibility of the method is reached through six elements of the game. Two of these elements are always present in the game; however, four can be used based on the needs of each case. Two always present elements will be the boat and the island.
The island in the framework represents the goal that the team is striving for. It is essential to have a very concrete goal to achieve maximum advantage of the game. For example, a "completed project" will often be a lousy goal formulation since it can mean many different things. An ambiguity of the goal will disperse the attention of the team, and it will be disadvantageous. Instead of "completed project," better options could be, for example, "client has approved concrete deliveries" or "product is available in retail stores," or anything else that is measurable and fits the key purpose.
The following fixed element in the game framework is a sailboat used to get to the island. Sailboat in this game represents a key instrument and driving force of goal achievement. The instrument or driving force also needs to be clearly defined and explicit. It can be the team. It can be a new product or service looking for the dream customers or anything else that is a better fit for the case.
The game also has four flexible framework elements that can be used depending on the needs of the specific face.
First of all, it is sails that will help the boat to reach the target. If the wind blows into sails, the boat will have a faster and easier voyage to the island. And the opposite – the fewer sails the boat has, or if there is no wind breeze in the sails, it will be more challenging for the crew to get to the island. The sails can be different obstacles in each of the cases. It can be strong characteristics of the team or unique knowledge. It also can be a competitive advantage of the product or the opposite – the external factors that can help. At this point team playing the game can start getting creative.
Fortunately or unfortunately, sails will not be the only attributes crew will need to navigate with. There always have to be hidden stones somewhere, and in this game, they are represented by anchors. Anchors slow the boat down and can prevent the boat from reaching the destination of sails and the wind. Anchors will be all the known or yet unknown risks and issues on the road. It can be people, products, partners, infrastructure, legislation, motivation, etc.
Will the crew give up because of the anchors? Certainly, they will not. The crew is real fighters who badly want to reach the island and relax after a challenging trip, so they will look for options that will allow them to cool down under the palm and drink refreshing cocktails. And to free themselves from the anchors' the crew can use one of the super tools – scissors and buoys.
Scissors are one of the most powerful super-tools that crew can use because these super-hard scissors are so powerful that they can cut the anchors and set the boat free. In the context of the specific case, scissors can be any solution, obstacle, or circumstance that can eliminate the risk or the issue (anchor). If the team can't find scissors for all anchors, they can use the second super tool - buoy. The buoy will not set the boat free from anchor weight but certainly will help hold the anchor and thus mitigate the impact of anchor weight.
2+4*X <= 6
As I've already promised before, the game is flexible and adjustable to specific cases and needs. The only two elements that will always be present are the island and sailboat since without these two elements the game will lose its meaning. In most cases, you will also use the anchors as the negative impact is often one of the game's key reasons, yet you can be flexible on that. In the same way, you can be flexible regards scissors and buoys usage. Depending on the time you have and the purpose of the game, you can skip these two. Or you can use only scissors or only buoys. Also, sails are one of the flexible elements of the game – it's always good to know and remind about strong sides in each situation; however, there might be the case where you don't really need them.
More details on how to use the method and play the game
Purpose: Identify and visualize the goal and the driving force
First of all, you have to define your island or the goal that needs to be achieved. I've mentioned already before it is essential to determine the goal as concrete as possible. Yet, it also depends on the reason why you are using this method and playing this game. If it is a kick-start activity for a new project or initiative, the vague goal could be acceptable, such as "satisfied client." In such a case, the vague goal would give broader space for new ideas generation regarding the advantages and potential problem factors, which could fit the purpose. However, if you play the game to get out of the problem you are stuck in, a more concrete goal will be a better fit. By giving the team a narrower goal, you will focus more in-depth on the real problem.
Guiding question examples: What result do we want to achieve? What is the deliverable we want to create? What are the tangible benefits we are striving for? How will we know when the result is achieved?
When the goal is set, you have to define the driving force towards the goal achievement – the boat. Typically it's much easier to determine the boat but not less important. The driving force will be the team most of the time, but it can also be something else. It can be product, service, client, methodologies, or maybe external factors?
Guiding question examples: What is the key aspect affecting the goal achievement? What is the key competency required for goal achievement? What are the most valuable tools that are available and important for goal achievement? What is the most significant value-adding factor?
Purpose: Agree on the rules and cadence of the game
Before you start the game, make sure all game participants know and understand the island and the sailboat in the same way. Discuss if someone has questions since it is essential to have the same understanding about these two. Also, explain the game's flow - what elements you will use and what each element means.
It is also the right time to remind everyone that the only thing not allowed in this game is hijacking others or criticizing ideas presented by others. Encourage your team to come up with any suggestions that have crossed their mind. Any idea can turn into gold after all.
Purpose: Each participant individually works with their ideas
Purpose: Explain generated ideas to others
Now work separately with each of the elements you have included in the game. Give each participant 5-10minutes of individual time to think about each element and their ideas that could represent the metaphor in your specific case. Ask each participant to write their thoughts down, one per post-it. When time is up, invite participants to pitch their ideas to others. When the idea is explained, place them in the respective area on your work-board. If multiple people have the same ideas – brilliant, group them.
If you have included
sails in your game, start with them. Ask all participants to write
down what they think could help the boat to reach the island faster.
Guiding question examples: What factors do strengthen the boat? What can make the boat more powerful? What obstacles or situations can speed the boat up? What are the competitive advantages of the boat?
- Then ask participants to think about obstacles that would interfere and make
it harder for the boat to reach the island. All of these ideas place on
board as separate
Guiding question examples: What is holding the boat back right now? What are the factors that can stop the boat from moving forward ? What are the weak sides of the boat? What the boat is lacking? What makes other boats more powerful?
- If you include problem mitigating elements in the game, continue with
scissors. Ask participants to think about factors that could release
the boat from anchors. After presenting ideas, place them next to the
anchor that would be released.
Guiding question examples: What kind of obstacles or situations can eliminate the anchor? How might we make buoy out of anchor? What sort of circumstances would make the anchor lose its significance?
Lastly, continue with
buoys. Ask participants to think about factors that wouldn't eliminate
the anchors but could mitigate their impact. Again – place them on the
board next to a specific anchor.
Guiding question examples: What kind of obstacles or situations can mitigate the anchor ? What could make the boat stronger so that anchor doesn't have such an impact?
- If you have included sails in your game, start with them. Ask all participants to write down what they think could help the boat to reach the island faster.
- 4. Purpose: Review results and identify important themes
When you have reviewed all elements and discussed each person's ideas, you most probably have a board full of various perceptions and possibilities. Review all work together with the team and group similar things together. Maybe somebody has a new idea to add?
Discuss with the team the essential findings and conclusions, the WOW moments, and the common themes.
- Purpose: Continue with the next methods
After the game, you will see some important aspects that require immediate attention and some themes to dig into more details. There will be better fit methods for digging into details, yet you have to plan for it.
When to use this method?
Since the method is fun and energizing for the team, use this method in any situation where refresh and boosting the energy is needed. This method is a great way to mobilize yourself and your team towards specific objective achievement. First of all, the method framework will help you structure the known things and organize them based on their impact. Second, the method gives many opportunities to ideate and discover new unknowns and new ideas towards the goal achievement. You and your team will strengthen your understanding of the advantages and also potential risk factors. Using the scissors and buoys will help you get into problem-solving thinking. The problems will not be solved yet, but the clarity will help you plan in the right direction.
It is pretty important to mention that when you review some product or service, don't forget to use customer feedback. Any feedback is a gift, but your real customers' feedback is a real treasure. All of the positive aspects of the feedback you can organize in the sails area. All of the neutral or negative you can turn into anchors and work with them during the sessions.
Other examples of method usage:
- Starting new project;
- Kick-off activity for new goal achievement;
- Rethinking failed target or redesign approach for target achievement;
- Need for fresh ideas and perspectives;
- Team engagement;
- Event planning;
- Personal goal achievement;
- Rethinking failed target or redesign approach for target achievement;
- Need for fresh ideas and perspectives;
When this method doesn't work
It will be hard to play this game in a new industry where you and your team lack experience. In such cases better to use some of the helicopter view methods.
If you are interested in this method, you can read more about different variations, for example, in these articles:
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I will appreciate it if you include in your message what you did like, what you think should be improved, and of course, any other ideas that would be worth experimenting with.
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