Some of us are productivity geeks. From several types of agendas, to time management strategies, to plugins for browsers, plugins for mail clients and special keyboards, etc.
I think you got the idea how passionate some of us can be in optimizing our time to better do our work and save more for our leisure time 🙂
Jake Knapp is one of those productivity geeks. During his job at Google he experimented with several ways he could improve team processes.Having several results he found out that the best ideas and results came from work under specific time constraints.
The looser the time constraint, the less efficient the process, tighter time constraints did not offer time to ideate.
Picking a time constraint, then adding all the stakeholders together for this whole amount of time was the start of the “Design Sprint”.
The last pieces of the puzzle were offered by other contributors that joined the effort:
- Braden Kowitz: story-centered design
- John Zeratsky: focusing on the end-result/end-benefit
- Michael Margolis: having a tangible outcome at the end of the Sprint.
Since its inception towards now, the Design Sprint has been iterated countless times and proved valuable for world-renowned businesses and projects, some of them are: Google, AirBnB, Slack, KLM, Prudential, British Museum, Medium and many more.
- 1 Why use a Design Sprint?
- 2 What is a Design Sprint?
- 3 When is a Design Sprint useful?
- 4 How to run a Design Sprint?
- 5 Overview of the Agenda
- 6 What is the outcome of a Design Sprint?
- 7 Extra: Running a remote Design Sprint
- 8 Conclusion
- 9 Useful Links
Why use a Design Sprint?
Design Sprints are used to test ideas with real life customers by rapid ideation and prototyping techniques. You can save a massive amount of money and time by focusing on the Problem/Solution part of the Product Lifecycle (you can read more about Product Lifecycles here .
The Design Sprint can be used to solve a difficult challenge, to test an idea or to enter new markets by validating new business models. Remember, the Design Sprint is held with ALL important stakeholders (CFO, CPO, CEO, all C-suite or representatives where necessary ).
What is a Design Sprint?
A Design Sprint is a 5-day step-by-step process for answering crucial questions through prototyping and testing ideas with customers.From Google products, investment bankers, to high school students, the Sprint process can be applied in any problem context.
When is a Design Sprint useful?
There are some prerequisites for the problem context for which the Design Sprint brings the most value, these are:
- High Stakes: High risk with a solution that requires a lot of time and money;
- Not enough time: From the point above, you need something to base your decision on fast;
- Plain stuck: Lack of information or lack of motivation because loss of momentum.
How to run a Design Sprint?
The Design Sprint is centered on a 1 week process, where each day has an input, a process and an output.
Each day involves certain activities that will provide input for the next day.
The week begins with creating a clear path for the whole week and ends with learning with customers.
Before presenting the overview of the week agenda, we still have to cover certain requirements:
- You will first need a Challenge: which should fulfill the requirements of the problem context we’ve discussed previously, but focusing on the surface ONLY ( where product meets customers );
- Then you will need the Team: After presenting the Agile Venn diagrams previously, you might have a hunch that the Design Sprint borrows heavily from other Agile frameworks: team size 7 people or less cross-functional ( CEO, CPO, CFO, sales, marketing and engineers), a Facilitator ( see Scrum Master ) and additional experts for support;
- Time and Space: in order to ensure that people are focused, the same agenda is going to be respected for 5 days, 1 lunch break and several minutes, all team members in the same location, all meetings facilitated by the Facilitator. This way we make sure nobody gets in the meeting trap (bellow)
Overview of the Agenda
Monday starts first thing in the morning by agreeing on a long-term goal. The long term goal is the goal of the entire project, it can be 3 months from now or in 5 year.
Next we make a map of the challenge, this can be an impact map of the main actors on the left and the goal on the left, in between actions (or impact) the actors need to take to reach the goal.
The rest of the day is asking the experts about what are the main obstacles in our map and How Might We (HMW postits) achieve the end-goal, the idea is to come with a subset of solutions.
In the end the Decider ( with or without the help of the team ) will pick as target ( one customer and one challenge ) to focus the rest of the sprint.
Tuesday will be more thrilling. The first goal of this day is to get the team to look for already existing solutions by using Lighting Demos, short 3 minutes discussions on how other solutions tackle the obstacles at hand.
The goal is to have at the end a whiteboard of ten to twenty ideas that might be useful.
The whole objective of this day is to review existing ideas and remix. This is done by either dividing or swarming. If you picked a very narrow focused target then everyone should swarm on the target, else they should divide to see how the ideas you researched solve the targets that you’ve picked.
The last step for today will be for everyone to sketch a solution from your customers perspective. These sketches are going to be reviewed…
Already you should have some solutions sketched up, so the goal of today is to decide on which you’re going to build your prototype on, by pruning and constructively critiquing each solution.
The critiquing stage follows a script and here the Facilitator will be mostly involved by time-boxing the whole process and ensuring that everyone understands each solution.
At the end of this stage the team will vote, getting only one vote per team member and the Deciders getting 3.
By the afternoon you will have decided which sketches have the best chance of answering your sprint questions and helping you reach the long-term goal.
The rest of the day is timeboxed for writing the storyboard. In the end the storyboard should contain all the winning sketches and a final prototype for which a customer interview can be based upon.
Thursday is the day of “faking” the prototype by building a facade. The prototype must be real enough that you elicit a valuable reaction from the customer.
The important step here is that the product doesn’t need to be real just appear real. If it is an onscreen app, use Keynote, PowerPoint or a website-building tool like Squarespace, if it is on paper use the above tools and Microsoft Word, if it is a service write a script for an interactive play with the customer.
After the Facilitator has divided the roles played in developing this prototype we will need to stitch the independent tasks together.
After everything is done, the rest of the day is filled up with a trial-run. The goal of this activity is for the one that will handle the customer interview the next day, to get accustomed with the customer interview for the next day.
All the other teams during the presenting of the prototype will contribute at the end, including the Decider, now is the best moment for such interventions.
This is the day that makes everything worthwhile. One person from the team that had the trial run done Thursday will act as the Interviewer.
The interview should follow a script, a series of steps, that were detailed the previous day and for which the end-outcome will be to capture the customers overarching thoughts and impressions.
It is important to note that the interview takes place in two separate rooms so that the team can monitor and reach conclusions once they watch the interviewer ask questions in the separate room.
At the end of each interview each note should be noted down and be put on a whiteboard under the name of each interviewee.
After all the interviews have ended, everyone should review their post-its silently and write – down any patterns that they see. The final step is to check how the patterns noted come together with the long-term goal.
What is the outcome of a Design Sprint?
Saved money and time before fully engaging on a solution;
You have gained the most valuable outcome there is to get: 5 customer feedback that can tell you if you are on track.
Now you can:
- Share the big ideas that came up after the Design Sprint;
- Tie up every detail from the interview to your existing Customer Journeys and recheck your Personas;
- Prioritize how and when the solution was built;
- What follows next is the regular Agile Release Management process with development taking an Iterative process look, such as Scrum and deciding based on roadmaps what and when to release.
Extra: Running a remote Design Sprint
Here is a nice video on how to run a remote Design Sprint, given the current world-wide situation it’s a must we also incorporate remote teams.
This is a real problem for some projects and companies where remote work has taken the bulk of our activity.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my summary of the Design Sprint, I highly recommend you buy the book and try this technique inside your organization. This is just a taste of the whole process, so maybe even look into some great Facilitators that already have run the Design Sprint.
Now that you know the advantages of the Design Sprint, let’s get a quick glance over some highlights from the post:
- A Design Sprint is a 5-day step-by-step process for answering crucial questions through prototyping and testing ideas with customers;
- Design Sprints are different from other frameworks because they tackle different stages of the problem and can save resources by having early customer feedback;
- They differ from brainstorming because they follow a process with artifacts, roles and responsibilities, coupled with outcomes that define success for each stage of the process;
- Having customer feedback, now the Design Sprints can provide input towards other Agile development approaches.