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Speed boat: an agile method to discover

  • Blog Post
By Delphine, June 27, 2018
Communication between individuals constitutes one of the keys to ensuring successful agile teams. There are several exercises that are very easy to put in place to initiate, stimulate and maintain this communication. One of them is the “speed boat” exercise (or “agile boat” to be more general). If your team isn’t yet familiar with this Innovation Game®, it’s time for them to get on-board!

The speed boat is one of the 12 Innovation Games® designed in 2006 by Luke Hohmann to help organisations design innovative products through collaborative play. Used as a retrospective tool in the scrum, it can actually be used in any collaborative work.

The whole team is in the same boat!

The exercise takes the metaphor of a boat and gets players to think about what will cause them problems, or else help them move forward with a project. The speed boat is much more than just a game; it will enable collective intelligence to be brought into play thanks to the following visuals:

The boat: this is the central element. It symbolises the team, regardless of the subject of the discussion (create a new product, achieve a successful transformation project, design another organisation, to name just a few).

The island: this represents the objectives to be achieved (market release of an innovative product, establishment of a new organisation, improvement in a process, and more).

The wind: this shows the strengths of the team. Just as the wind blows into the sails of the boat, the assets identified by the group will enable it to move forward.

The anchors: these represent the brakes, the elements which will slow the team down.

The reef: this element isn’t used in all speed boat workshops. When it is used, the reef represents the obstacles that might appear on the boat’s (meaning the team) path.

Once established, all of these elements enable four main themes to emerge, recalling the SWOT matrix: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

The equipment required

The speed boat is a method which is easy to put in place. An exercise which is usually run with paperboards, felt-tips pens and self-adhesive paper, the agile boat can also be carried out using digital tools such as Klaxoon’s Brainstorm app.

The team chooses their own screen-saver to represent the boat, the island, the anchors and the wind. They can move their ideas around as the debates progress and access the matrix to modify it whenever they want, even if their members are not physically in the same room as each other.

With the MeetingBoard, the team doesn’t even need a meeting room: the speed boat can set sail anywhere!

speed boat agility

All hands on deck

A speed boat session may be broken down in two main steps: brainstorming followed by collective discussion.

1. Brainstorming session

Each person thinks about the different themes to be dealt with (objectives, strengths, brakes and obstacles). They then set out their ideas, position them on the visual medium (paper or digital) and explain them verbally.

The ideas are positioned spontaneously. If one member of the team finds a particularly difficult brake, they will show it by placing their idea very low around the anchors. Conversely, if they feel that one of the team’s strengths provides a real boost, they will position their idea very high in the space which represents the wind in the sails.

The exercise is an extremely rich one as it enables very different ideas to be collected according to each person’s area of expertise and their different personalities and sensibilities.

Once each person has positioned their ideas, the exercise continues with a collective discussion.

2. Collective discussion

The visual medium provides the team with an overview of the project. It immediately identifies the points where their ideas meet up and the themes where debate is needed.

The framework for the discussion is designed so that the group can search for solutions collectively from the ideas which emerge naturally. “How can we limit the elements which are slowing us down?” “What assets can we used to avoid the obstacles?”

What’s the advantage of this method? The whole team takes part and shares a vision!

Everyone says what they think, on an equal footing. The collective is mobilised and committed, without the project’s workload falling onto the shoulders of a single member.

Speed Boat, méthode agile
An example of speed boat achieved by a multidisciplinary team with Klaxoon’s Brainstorm app.

3. Room for effectiveness and creativity!

The speed boat has the advantage that it can adapt to suit every need and desire.

For example, you can decide to set a time limit for individual consideration (5 or 10 minutes) so as to speed up your workshop. To do so, just start a stopwatch running or activate the Klaxoon Brainstorm’s timer function.

For an even more collaborative session, you can ask the team to design the boat’s matrix themselves.

Paradise island or desert island, small yacht or liner… the visual representation the groups makes of the project will enable them from the start to take note of how they will get to grips with the project and discuss it!

When to use the agile boat

You can use this collaborative workshop in any context and at any time.

During the project launch phase

Whether you want to build up a team, modify a communication plan or even develop a commercial strategy, the speed boat will get the team moving to define objectives. By sharing ideas and debating, the team will be able to identity the distance to travel between their current position (the boat) and the goal to be achieved (the island). This work will be used to break the journey down into stages, into “small steps”. It will also enable “external help” (as parachutes, for example) to be shown on the speed boat matrix, which throughout the project will enable the team to overcome any difficulties which arise from time to time. In this case, the workshop enables the team to have a vision for the future and to define an action plan, with tasks assigned to each person.

Throughout the project

The team may re-use their speed boat from one week or month to the next. In this case, the mast acts as a visual marker between the past and the future. The group examines what enabled them to move forward and what slowed down their progress. It explores how to convert the brakes into accelerators, using actions they plan (for example, if the team notices that they have communicated poorly, they may decide to put daily checkpoints in place the next week).

When carried out in this way, the workshop plays its part in an effective continuous improvement logic by pushing the team to work to take notice of their assets and to progress in their areas for improvement.

During the analysis phase

The exercise may also be carried out when a project is complete. In this hypothesis, the team is asked to look at how they worked. The speed boat then enables them to draw up an analysis, to ask questions of themselves and to learn from their experience.

The speed boat therefore constitutes a vital collaborative working tool at any point in the life of a project.

Simple to carry out, participatory and adaptable, it is an agile working method which enables the whole team to move forward.

As the current carries them and as time moves on, against winds and tides!

Delphine
By Delphine, journalist at Klaxoon
She enjoy to contemplate, read, write, discover, meet, laugh and make laugh,ask questions and get answers, the sea, the stars, David Bowie, Vivaldi, Tarantino, Jacques Demy, Baudelaire, the tales. All of that with a hot chocolate cup!