Design Sprints in 2020: dos and don’ts.


Mateusz Ojdowski
Design Sprints in 2020: dos and don’ts.

This article was firstly published on Movade’s Medium profile here.

We had a year of mobile, we had a year of blockchain, year of AI (already here?) but now is the time for something down to earth. We claim 2020 to be the year of Design Sprints!

I know, you might say that Design Sprints were founded years ago and you would be right. We conducted them at Movade even before it was perfectly described by Jake Knapp in his famous book. Still, what changed during these years is not how well the process is described — it’s how well it’s gonna be adopted.

If I could oversimplify, I would state that Design Sprints were mostly intended for UX Designers or enlighted Product Managers. What we see right now is that it came to consciousness to everyone that is involved in developing a new product, feature or service. It doesn’t really matter whether you are a Product Owner, Project Manager, Graphic Designer or some ambitious Sales Man from the dungeons of the marketing agency. In 2020 it will be for EVERYONE.

Given my optimistic prognosis above, I would like to leave you with a set of dos and don’ts for doing Design Sprint in your organization. The list will be most useful for those planning to do their first Design Sprint, although if you are more experienced you can find it useful as well (or at least argue with me in the comments!). So here it goes.

DOS

  1. Don’t overthink this (I know, I am starting DOS with a DON’T — but it makes perfect sense if you think about it). It has been already done a thousand times with great instruction from Jake Knapp. Just do it. Eventually, we all have to start somewhere, right?
  2. Find the right challenge. Just start by asking your colleagues or managers what bothers them within their products or organizations. Hell, you can make a list out of it and make others decide what you should take first. Remember! The challenge should be narrow, yet painful for others.
  3. Get some allies. You don’t want to bore them with details about Design Sprint, just tell them you want to try something innovative (haha) within a limited set of time and you hope you could solve a burning issue or two.
  4. Consider inviting an experienced facilitator. I know it’s a great comfort to have someone in your organization that could help you go through this path. Nevertheless, there are plenty of Consultants that would love to help you make your first Design Sprint. When you are in this role, you should squeeze this Consultant as a lemon. Make sure (even at the contract level) that his job is to educate you as well as take the whole team through the process. (I know it’s achievable because we do this at Movade). If you need help with that just book a meeting with me here.
  5. Do some PR work. I used to believe that great work would defend itself. But you know what? It would not. That’s a topic for another article (or a Ph.D.?) but take this for granted — it’s your job to make a good buzz about your work and this buzz is sometimes (too often!) even more important than the quality of work itself. Sad but true.

DON’TS

  1. Don’t ever, ever overpromise the effects. You are not changing a world with the Design Sprint, you just want to make it a better place, step-by-step. Make sure everyone knows it’s not a promised land.
  2. Don’t waste your higher management time. I know Design Sprint it’s all about including the stakeholders, and you got this right. Still, it doesn’t mean they have to be present in every session, not even every day. Just make sure they are making tough decisions i.e. at the end of a crucial phase. Hell, it’s a great way to wrap your mind often and practice your pitching on a regular basis.
  3. Don’t try to be a Sprint Allrounder. It’s physically impossible to take care of every aspect just by yourself. You should be focused on moderating the process and making sure that you come to fruitful solutions. I recommend having:
    * The Scribe: document the increment of the sprint (that might be one of the participants and you can swap the person from time to time).
    * The Wellness Person: take care of snacks, lunch break, tea/coffee, etc.
    * The Prototyper: someone to play with a rough concept from day one. Also, you want to make sure that this person prepares some inspirations and examples when needed, just to unlock the creativity of the group.
  4. Don’t spend too much time discussing, when it doesn’t take you to reach your goals. It’s nice to talk about THIS-IS-VERY-IMPORTANT topic, but hey, if it’s not on your Agenda and the time has passed then you move on. (your clock is actually your friend, not the opposite). Otherwise, it will blow back in your face very soon. Small tip: use an idea/topic garage and ideally make the team decide at the end of every day if it’s something they still want to talk about. It shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes.
  5. Don’t assume that the participants understand anything. This one is a huge cognitive error. They don’t really understand the purpose of all it, they are asked to do some exercise often the first time in their lifetime and they work in a rush that probably seldom felt before. As my friend likes to describe this “You need to talk to them so that the Retriever (yes, it’s a dog) will understand”. It sounds like a lack of respect but that’s one of the best advice for wannabe-moderators, and everyone will appreciate this.

I promise to update this list every now and then. Let see if this list would make it to 2021. I am really open to knowing your perspective here — all I need is a little disagreement.


Design Sprint is in da house!

I am the CEO of Movade, a Product Design Studio based in Gdansk, Poland. Lately, we came up with a service called Monthly Design Sprints. MDS is our answer to the rapid and highly experimental times our customers’ businesses live now but without the limitation of a 5-day Sprint.

This is how happy we are doing Design Sprints!

Let me know what drew your attention lately. I would love to add some new points here. Write a comment or catch me here: mateusz@movade.com

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