Successful companies are looking for the ways how to improve processes all the time. Sources of improvement, in companies driven by traditional management, are mostly selected people from senior management and/or process engineers.

The problem is, as we in agile community see, that source of improvements are not the people directly doing the job in many caes. Of course, these people are questioned  (at least) by different surveys with pre-formulated questions that lead to strange situations. We’ve seen couple of  surveys with questions like: “Do you think our company XXX is moral?”. Or “Do you think our company supports Safe Earth effort?”.

Do these questions sound little strange to you too ? Especially if the title of survey is  How to improve our company (Global Survey)?

In scrum (retrospective) such questions should be open questions. Questions looking for ideas, not expecting YES/NO answers.

Coaches used to coach people to ask them during scrum ceremony called retrospective. There are different ways how to lead the retrospective. The simplest way  is to ask What is good?, What can be better? and Any other ideas? Teams can apply voting, grouping, sorting etc.

We tried different approaches during last few coaching sessions. These sessions were primarily focused on improvements of project and product management teams, that were not working  agile way and were little bit reluctant to hear about agile or scrum. We used Speed  Boat innovation game.

The principle of the game is to draw a boat with couple of anchors and engines. The boat should be named to represent a focus area (especially if you  are going to examine large group of problems).

Ask team members to write what is slowing down the boat (one idea per card) and to pin the card to anchor. Let team members to write ideas what can speed up the boat and pin cards to an engine. After that you can apply grouping, sorting and/or voting the same way as you know in retrospective in agile/scrum.

We created couple of boats during our session. People presented a lot of ideas without any hassles and what more, they freely promoted possible/expected  solutions that were immediately changed into action items for directors.

Speed Boat game allows not just open minds, but efficiently provides a strategy how to solve your problems. Additionally, trust and expectations are more clear.

Missing the happy end? Open ending is what the real life is about.

Let’s meet in the next Speed Boat session after couple of months to check how process is improved and to provide new ideas.