Are You Sprinting Yet?

Report on the best-selling book, Sprint, by Jake Knapp with John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz.

I recently graduated from an intense, immersive User Experience Design program at General Assembly. The sheer volume of new information to absorb was…massive. All of this design knowledge and experience is fantastic, but at the end of the day, you need to be on the right track. All of the skills in the world won’t help you if you’re solving the wrong problem, or designing the wrong product for your customer. And to make sure that we are solving for the correct problem, the Sprint method — as defined by Jake Knapp — keeps us on track.

During the 4 months of my cohort, our instructors utilized many of the techniques described in this book. I was able to test quickly, ideate, reiterate, prototype, and re-test in a few days. In this way, I was able to determine if I was on the right track with each project in a very short amount of time.

By using the Sprint method, I get something incredibly valuable: A quick answer. Am I on the right track, or not? This type of clarity is pure gold when strategizing which product, solution, or idea to pursue.

What is a Sprint?

A Sprint is a way to test out the viability of a long-term goal in one week. By Friday, you’ll have a realistic prototype to test. You’ll need to be sure that what you are testing is of high importance to your organization. This will ensure everyone prioritizes the Sprint and gives it 100%. If you’re not sure what to test, ask the experts in different departments to choose a target for your Sprint. Remember, “CEO’s don’t know everything”. The Sprint will move you through the basics of the double-diamond design process in one week, and will tell you if your idea was a winner or not. As Knapp says, it’s a way to “bring focus to the work that matters.” A very brief summary of the week is as follows:

Monday

Agree to a long-term goal for your Sprint, and make a map of the challenge.

Tuesday

Ideate solutions and sketch them out.

Wednesday

Choose the best solutions, and weave them into a storyboard.

Thursday

Turn the storyboard into a realistic prototype.

Friday

Interview customers, test prototype, and debrief.

Why you should Sprint

First, you get to combine the knowledge of different teams from across your organization. How often do you really get the voices of development, marketing, sales, design, service, the C-level, etc, all together in a productive way? You get the benefit of combined knowledge, and a variety of viewpoints in your team. This helps to find the best solution and produce better results. And at the end of the day, this is best for your customers.

As Knapp says, “Not every idea is a winner.” If you find out that you were way off the mark with your product, you’ve only put a week of time into it. It’s a great way to determine if an idea is viable before devoting tons of time, energy, and resources to it. Waste less time, and get answers faster. What business doesn’t like the sound of that?

The detail with which Knapp explains how to do each part of the Sprint is rich. And he backs it all up with solid examples from real Sprints he’s been involved in. I really appreciate the way he describes Friday’s tasks of conducting one-on-one interviews with product users. He explains the importance of really knowing and understanding your customer, and helping you see how the product will actually fit into their life. The Harry Potter manuscript example is particularly effective. Maybe because I’m a Nerd.

Your Sprint Coach

Knapp coaches you through every part of the process. All of the tips, insider knowledge, and suggestions I’d need to be successful were right in front of me. From how to break down each day of the Sprint, to specific advice for each member of the Sprint team, this book covers it all. Additionally, each day has “Facilitator Notes” so that the Sprint Facilitator will know exactly how to keep the process running smoothly. For example, he suggests a very specific, very cool type of timer so that the Facilitator can keep everyone moving along on a schedule.

Knapp also includes diagrams and pictures of different steps in the Sprint process, illustrating what they should look like in actual practice. He also includes important tips from his experience to prevent big mistakes along the way. And the back of the book has an extensive checklist of what each team member will need for each part of the Sprint, so you can go into it knowing you’re fully prepared.

Your Sprint

To reiterate, running a Sprint could be a huge asset to your organization if you plan to grow, improve, or innovate. Basically, if you’re in any business, a Sprint will allow you to save time and precious resources. Also a huge benefit, the process will allow your teams to build confidence in one another’s expertise and in your ability to progress toward big goals. It will provide priceless clarity in just one week. This is next-level process improvement.

On your mark…….get set…….GO!

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