Change Management Week

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Play the Sailboat Exercise

Play the Sailboat Exercise

What is it?

A game of brainstorming goals, risks, and solutions.

Why do it?

The Sailboat Exercise helps teams define a vision of where they want to go. Then, the exercise will help them identify risks, what slows them down, and what contributes to them achieving their objectives.

This exercise is suitable for any team and does not require any specific level of maturity.

Time Needed

20 minutes

Number of Participants

A team – no more than 7 people

Supplies Needed

  • Flip chart
  • Markers, pen or pencil
  • If your team isn’t co-located, this exercise can be done virtually using Miro, Google Docs, or another similar tool.

Process Steps

  1. Draw a sailboat with an anchor, rocks, clouds, and couple of islands on a flip chart.
    1. The islands represent the team’s goals and/or vision. This is what they are working every day to achieve.
    2. The rocks represent risks the team might encounter as they work towards their vision.
    3. The anchor is everything that is slowing the team down on their journey.
    4. The clouds and the wind represent everything that is helping them to reach their goal.
sailboat exercise
Example Drawing
  1. Place the picture on the wall so it is visible to everyone.
  2. Have the team write their vision or goals together.
  3. Start a team brainstorming session where they “dump” their ideas within each area.
  4. Discuss with the team how can they continue to practice what was written in the “clouds” area. These are good ideas that help the team… they need to continue with these ideas.
  5. Spend some time discussing how can the team mitigate the risks they identified.
  6. Together with the team, chose the most important issue that is slowing the team down. If you aren’t able to get agreement within the team on the most important topic that should be tackled, you can use vote dots.
  7. Define the steps to fix the problem.


Remind everyone that they are all on the same sailboat navigating to the same direction. This technique is a good way to reveal how the team is performing – both positively and negatively.

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