📖 Lessons from “Sprint”

June 17th, 2020

Book cover

An amazing go-to guide, this book offers a straightforward formula packed in a neat little format. Run a sprint over a week to address some of your biggest design problems. Then test your ideas with real people to gain valuable information about your solution.

These are my notes, highlights, and other things I learned from it.


Overview

  • Involve around seven people in the sprint.
  • Five days work well. It’s a coherent chunk of time which you can accomplish a lot with if structured properly. If you involve weekends you risk a loss of continuity. Distraction may creep in.
  • Book a “sprint room” for the entire week.
  • No devices are allowed in the sprint room.
  • Get some whiteboards. As humans, our short-term memory is not all that good, but our spatial memory is awesome. A sprint room, plastered with notes, diagrams, printouts, and more, takes advantage of that spatial memory.

Assign the team

Start by getting your team together. You need people from different departments throughout your company. These are the roles you need to have on board:

  • Decider. Who is the decider in the team? You need someone who can take quick decisions without lengthy arguments. CEO, founder, product manager, etc.
  • Finance expert. Who can explain where the money comes from? CEO, CFO, etc.
  • Marketing expert. Who is crafting your company’s messages? PR, community manager, etc.
  • Customer expert. Who regularly talks to your customers one-on-one? Sales, customer support, etc.
  • Tech expert. Who understands what you company can build and deliver? Who knows the technical possibilities/limitations? CTO, engineer, etc.
  • Design expert. Who is designing the products your company makes? Designer, product manager, etc.

Ask: Who might cause trouble if he or she isn’t included?


Monday: Map

Monday’s structured discussions create a path for the sprint week.

  • Start at the end. Start off by agreeing to a long-term goal first thing in the morning. “Why are we doing this project? Where do we want to be six months, a year, or even five years from now?”
  • Map. Make a map of the challenge.
  • Ask the experts. In the afternoon do interviews with people in various areas in the company. People who are in touch with customers, people who are doing the engineering, the CEO, people in marketing. Get their picture.
  • Pick a target. What is the manageable piece of the problem that you can solve in one week?

Tuesday: Sketch

Tuesday is about solving the problem. Each person will sketch their own solution.

Great innovation is built on existing ideas, repurposed with vision.

Use Lightning Demos where everyone in the team gives a quick demo from their favorite solutions. It could be from competitors or from different domains. This exercise is for finding raw materials to work with. Remember that the sprint can be the perfect opportunity to rejuvenate old ideas.

Individuals working alone generate better solutions than groups brainstorming do.

The four-step sketch:

  1. Notes. Each person walks around the room, looking at the whiteboards and take notes.
  2. Ideas. After everyone has a pile of notes it’s time to switch into idea mode. Jot down rough ideas. It can be messy or incomplete.
  3. Crazy 8s. Crazy 8s is a fast-paced exercise. Each person takes his or her strongest ideas and rapidly sketches eight variations in eight minutes. Crazy 8s forces you to push past your first reasonable solutions and make them better, or at least consider alternatives.
  4. Solution sketch. The solution sketch is a three-panel storyboard drawn on sticky notes.

Wednesday: Decide

Wednesday is about deciding which of your solutions you will prototype and sketch.

  • Don’t spend hours on discussing which solution is the best.
  • Put the solution sketches on the wall and use dot voting.
  • The Decider gets a supervote, and will be the one deciding in the end.

Sometimes when people work together in groups, they start to worry about consensus and try to make decisions that everybody will approve—mostly out of good nature and a desire for group cohesion, and perhaps in part because democracy feels good. Well, democracy is a fine system for governing nations, but it has no place in your sprint.

At the end of Wednesday create a storyboard to prepare for Thursday’s prototype.


Thursday: Prototype

On Thursday you’ll adopt a “fake mindset” to turn your storyboard into a realistic prototype in one day.

  • “Real enough to test” is better than perfect.
  • Don’t waste time on the wrong things.
  • Adopt the “prototype mindset”. Just enough is better than perfect.
  • Build just enough to learn.
  • Your regular tools are not the proper tools for prototyping. The problem is that they’re too perfect and too slow.
  • Keynote is a perfect prototyping tool.
  • Remember that it’s impossible to make a realistic prototype with unrealistic text.

Friday: Test

The last day of the sprint. On Friday you will interview customers and learn by watching them react to your prototype.

  • One person from your team will act as the interviewer.
  • He’ll interview five of your target customers.
  • The rest of the team will watch a video stream in another room and take notes.
  • Remember that five is the magic number when it comes to user research. After that your return on the effort will drop like a stone.
  • Make breaks between each interview.

Use the five-act interview process:

  1. Friendly welcome.
  2. Ask context questions.
  3. Introduce the prototype.
  4. Tasks and nudges.
  5. Quick debrief.

Maybe the best part about a sprint is that you can’t lose. If you test your prototype with customers, you’ll win the best prize of all—the chance to learn, in just five days, whether you’re on the right track with your ideas. The results don’t follow a neat template. You can have efficient failures that are good news, flawed successes that need more work, and many other outcomes.