Catapult your Scrum Team into Nirvana

Maybe you wonder how to boost your Scrum Team in improvement. The Catapult and Defining Nirvana could be the formats to use in your next Retrospective session. In this article, I combine them into a single format.

I found both formats at in the futurespective section. The Defining Nirvana format helps the team creating a common goal. The Catapult lets the team focus on achieving this common goal.

I used these formats to talk with new or changed teams about their ideal way of working and define their goal. This goal can be used as input for the definition of ‘Ready’ or ‘Done.’

The Catapult and Defining Nirvana retrospective


  • Draw a picture on a whiteboard or flip over containing a catapult, a mountain, a person flying over the mountain and “Magicland” or Nirvana (the perfect world).
  • Get a fair amount of post-its in four different colors and enough markers. The colors are for each area on the drawing.
The Catapult & Defining Nirvana drawing example
The Catapult & Defining Nirvana drawing example

Enter the stage (Check-in)

Welcome the team for the retrospective. Explain the format, what you like to achieve and suggest the plan of the format.

First, I explain the drawing. Nirvana is the common goal, the perfect world. The mountain is the challenge to reach Nirvana. The flying person is the team, and the catapult is the business (environment) to boost the changes needed to accomplish the common goal.

Second, I tell the team that we start by defining Nirvana. After that, we discuss the challenge; actions or improvements for the team; and organizational boosts or impediments.

Gathering the information

After entering the stage, it’s time to gather the data. As we want a common goal for the team, it’s important everyone’s voice is heard during this phase.
The common practice I use in this phase is a few minutes of silent writing. Everyone on the team can write what they think.

Remember encouraging the Development Team to think of all aspects. It doesn’t matter if it’s about the geek stuff (coding, testing, etc.) or about fun, working together or something else they think is important. Every team member should be able to address something important for them to the team.

As result, this will bond the Development Team and members add more value to the product or project they work on.

After a few minutes, place the post-its on the whiteboard in Nirvana. Group the post-its to similar subjects together with the team. Everyone can explain the subjects they brought up. Remember: it’s up to the team to group: as Scrum Master you are only facilitating!

Generate insights

Now we have the common goal clear, the next step is to identify the challenge. As a Scrum Master, I don’t use the silent writing technique, but this is where I continue the discussion. The Development Team will bring up the challenges or blockages they see in their daily working life.

Write the challenges on different color post-its then are already used and place them on the mountain.

Generate actions

Once you have the biggest challenges in the picture, it’s time to fill the catapult and flying person area on the whiteboard. Maybe the Development Team brought up some subjects in the earlier steps. You can mention them again and ask if they can come up with other ideas or subjects to accomplish one or more challenges.

The catapult is the area to place the organizational-level actions. The flying person is the area for the actions of the Scrum Team. Make sure the actions are clear in what the result should be.

Wrap up (Check-out)

In the wrap up I let the team pick their three actions to select for the next Sprint. Tell the team your actions to remove the organizational-level impediments that came up during the retrospective. Also, tell the team the steps for the picked actions. For example that you add them in the Sprint Backlog for the next Sprint.

After that recap the retrospective and thank everyone for their participation and time.

At last, take a picture of the drawing with the post-its for future reference.

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