10 Dec The Design Sprint Process 2.0
In my previous blog post, I spoke about the Design Sprint and how it can save your company time and money.
I briefly outlined the steps involved, and I think it would be helpful to you to understand more about the process in detail.
The original Design Sprint, by Jake Knapp, took five days and looked like this:
The Design Sprint Version 2.0, however, now takes only four days:
Is it really possible that a four-day process can bring a team together, improve productivity and result in a tested product?
👇 Let me show you how 👇
The old way to have teams work on projects includes things like:
➡️ Long meetings
➡️ Communication mainly via email and sometimes face to face
➡️ Disagreements over what to prioritise
➡️ Fights over ideas & solutions
➡️ Constant delays to reaching a prototype or testing phase
➡️ Absent team members
The Sprint method focuses on:
➡️ A fast-paced structure that gets stuff done
➡️ Discussions and active listening, which means everyone is contributing.
➡️ Tangible results from discussions, including sketches, notes, questions and demos. The process is a lot more than just conversations.
➡️ Note-taking in the form of questions and solutions so that progress is always happening
➡️ Physical activity, creating diagrams and mind maps and acting out user scenarios
➡️ Voting systems that help make decisions without putting anyone down
➡️ An outside facilitator to keep things moving
That sounds great in theory – let’s take a deeper look at what happens each day, the end goal and how we would work with your team to get there.
Please note: There are many exercises during a Design Sprint, but not all of them are equally important. They are just structural support to help the entire group to reach their goal. So I will just focus on the most important steps of a Design Sprint.
Here is a bird’s-eye view of a Design Sprint with the most important exercises to help understand the process at a glance. The canvas shows the famous Blue Bottle Coffee example from the book “Sprint”.
Let’s go into more detail with a different example.
A Sprint is best for solving a critical business problem.
For example, pretend that you run a new, on-demand, 24-hour laundry service that can be booked and managed via a website and app.
The business has started well, but you know there is potential to grow and increase revenue. You would like to identify areas that need improving by using a Sprint:
During the Sprint discussions and activities, you discover the following:
➡️ Your customers seem to think that you only offer dry cleaning services for shirts and are completely missing the entire service range.
➡️ A lot of your customers forget to be home at the delivery time.
There may be several solutions, some better than others.
The team need to decide what those solutions look like, which ones are the most promising, and which one to prototype for testing.
We achieve this by working closely with your team and guiding them.
Instead of discussing everything in an old fashioned meeting style, your team will complete fast-paced challenges, tasks and activities that help define and solve the main problems.
Let’s look at how this works from start to finish in detail.
Day 1: Everyone is an expert
To achieve anything worthwhile, you need a great team, but that team has to be united and heading in the same direction.
That is something the Design Sprint achieves very quickly.
Usually, everyone has a title: CEO, Manager, Designer etc.
The Sprint removes these titles, and everyone is an “Expert”.
It seems like a small thing, but one of the best things about the Sprint.
There is no hierarchy.
That doesn’t always happen with titles.
So we remove them, clarifying that everybody matters and everybody needs to contribute.
There is a Decider, but they still follow a democratic voting process.
The end goal for Day 1 is to align and focus the team. And for everyone to understand and define the problem.
We want to understand every aspect of the challenge, then focus on the problems we most critically need to solve, which will have the most impact. Then we concentrate on producing solutions through a series of structural support exercises that inspire and get your team into problem-solving mode.
We start with “Ask the Experts”: everyone talks about the current problems and which solutions are most important.
In a regular meeting, participation can become skewed.
In this discussion, everyone has to take notes in the form of sentences that start:
“How might we ………………..”.
For example, someone may write down:
“How might we let people know we do more than just shirts?”
or “How might we deal with people missing their laundry delivery slot?”
or “How might we make our service more convenient than having a washing machine at home?”
This form of note-taking ensures everyone is actively listening and participating.
The notes are written on Post-its and stuck up on a wall, board or window.
A voting system helps the team decide which ones are most important.
Next, we look at setting measurable goals for everyone to work towards over the next two years.
Something like: “In 2 years, we want our service to be an essential weekly laundry service that is more convenient than having a washing machine at home.”
This has a massive positive effect on getting everyone to work together and improve their teamwork as everyone is working towards the same objective.
We also ensure the team looks at it from a pessimistic point of view and discusses anything that might stop them from reaching these goals by asking a range of questions that help identify what assumptions we are making and how risky they are.
Some things we might ask are:
🤔 “Can we make the delivery system less rigid?”
🤔 “Can we make it clear that we are not just useful for shirts and suits?”
🤔 “Can we replace the need for owning a washing machine?” – this is quite a big challenge, particularly for families with babies who get messy often.
The questions help everybody consider all the aspects of the challenge and see how feasible each one is.
All the activities, questions and goals culminate in a map on the wall or window, showing the team what problems they will be focusing on for the Sprint.
The afternoon focuses on initiating solutions. We begin by looking at what other companies have done and then writing down thoughts and sketching viable solutions.
Day 2: Acting out the solution
The end goal for Day 2 is to decide on the best solution and create a storyboard for prototyping on Day 3.
The morning kicks off with everyone presenting their sketches.
Afterwards, everyone votes for the best solution.
The next step is to create a user test flow to illustrate the overall concept in a clear flow that a user might go through.
A user test flow is a beautifully concise diagram created by the team acting out different customer scenarios and putting it in a written/map format as a blueprint for a prototype.
It shows the customer journey as they use your product or service.
The afternoon is for storyboarding.
A storyboard is a diagram that shows clearly each part of the prototype.
For example, let’s say your team has decided on a new marketing page that highlights the other laundry services. The laundry booking app also gets this new functional extension allowing the customer to book the full range of services.
After they have found the new marketing landing page and booked a dry clean, the user sees a screen that says: “We also clean your everyday laundry. Would you like to add some items?”
The user can choose either “Yes, please.” or “No, thank you. Remind me next time.”
The storyboard would include the layout, buttons, screens, text, user flow etc., explaining how the new part works, with enough detail to enable the team to build it on Day 3, without requiring further information.
Day 3: Building the solution or prototype ready for testing
It is necessary to have your whole team for the first two days.
On Day 3, you only need the team members who will make the prototype or product.
We only have one day, so we start by making sure everyone has their assigned roles, everyone knows what they are doing and order extra coffee!
Please note: We can use the Design Sprint method also for non-digital products. Its greatest strength and what makes it truly exciting is that it can be used for any type of project or product. The origins of this method are in Design Thinking. Companies such as IDEO have widely used collaborative approaches to design hardware products. e.g. the first computer mouse for Apple, sneakers for Nike, kitchen appliances or even furniture.
Day 4: The big day!
The Sprint is a fantastic way to improve a product and quickly see if it works.
The end goal for Day 4 is to have a tested and working solution, or prototype. We want to discover how real users react to the new solution or product.
So in this case, we would find out if the new marketing page and its related booking system really works for the customers.
One way to measure this would be the number of users who add extra items to their booking.
We will have a range of feedback and metrics to analyse at the end of the day.
And that brings us to the end of a packed and productive four days, with a tested and tangible solution and a happy team.
You can now use the insight gained to build the real thing and get it to market.
You can also do a second sprint to polish or iterate the solution further.
Hopefully, that has helped you understand the benefits of a Sprint and its advantages over traditional meetings and product development.
Who should be present during the Design Sprint, and what is their role?
To make a Sprint work effectively, you want to choose a diverse team of people. It works best with about 6-8 members.
Usually, the team will represent different departments: the CEO, Head of Finance, Marketing, Design and so on. However, it doesn’t have to be the top employees. Anyone in the company with the knowledge or experience to contribute is perfect. And you know that employee that sees everything from a different angle and always has a different opinion – definitely bring that one! It will add a lot to the process.
Essentially you choose who you feel will bring the most knowledge and insight to the process with a broad skill set.
One person, usually the CEO or someone who has good insight into the company or the product, will be selected as the Decider during the Sprint process, which is necessary to finalise decisions and keep the momentum going.
The necessary mindset and comfort levels during a Sprint:
A Design Sprint is a unique blend of fast-paced creativity, structured plans, ideation and timed problem-solving.
Those things do not usually go together.
But the process does work. As we say, trust the process.
However, your team are probably not used to working this way and may even be sceptical at the start.
Their comfort levels will vary, especially on day 1.
Creativity is usually spontaneous, without planning and is unpredictable – how do you know your team will be at their most creative on a Monday morning, for example?
And that’s another advantage of the Sprint, it doesn’t require creativity from participants. It allows for creativity but does not rely on everyone feeling or being creative.
But, as they progress and realise they are reaching a solution and all of their inputs are driving towards success, they will learn that a Sprint is totally worth it, even if it takes them out of their comfort zone. Motivation and enthusiasm increases and everyone starts to get into it – the overall energy in the room is brilliant. It always turns out to be a great experience.
A Design Sprint also leaves positive long term effects on your team.
They will, hopefully, find it easier to work together as they have shared a very intensive, successful journey.
Their mindset will shift, and they will be more open to trying new things.
Future product development life cycles will be shorter as they continue to use principles from the Sprint method.
Why do you need a facilitator to run a Design Sprint?
Because the process is so different to what your team is used to, having it run by an outside expert makes it easier to adopt.
It’s like you are saying: “We’re trying something new and will be learning from a professional”.
I go into more detail on the benefits of a Sprint facilitator in my blog post.
A Design Sprint is a unique process for validating ideas and solving big challenges in just four days. It helps you create better products and innovate faster, without needing a fully functional product first.
It provides a structured approach to creativity, problem-solving and innovation.
The challenges, discussions and voting sessions are an engaging and democratic way to identify the most critical problems and best solutions.
Everything is visually mapped out and physically discussed, creating clarity and conciseness in a short amount of time.
The prototype or product can be tested and tweaked based on user feedback, creating a very agile development system.