Five Ways You’re Doing Design Sprints Wrong

Edenspiekermann_Article_design sprint

Design sprints are the cat’s pajamas, a close cousin of agile development sprints. A design sprint can be a great way to focus in on a problem your organization is facing, and rapidly work through possible approaches to addressing that problem in a collaborative, cross-functional way. However, there are some real stumbling blocks you can run into which can make a design sprint an expensive waste of time. Here are some mistakes to watch out for!

1. You’re not doing them at all

Seriously, it’s 2018 already. Design is important, for reasons. Your competitors are offering a better service than you are, at a lower price, with better customer satisfaction and loyalty. Stop the cycle of self-doubt and denial, and stop thinking that design or anything else is going to fix your problem. The problem is you. It’s time to adapt, or be eaten.

2. You follow steps, but you don’t have a clear goal

Anyone can follow a sequence of steps. Maybe you’ve gathered people in a room for a structured series of workshops and sessions, only to end everything wondering where exactly the time went.

A successful design sprint is about having a shared goal, and being ruthless about sticking to it. If the team doing the sprint can’t stay focused on that one goal, it’s time to reset: identify a new goal, and move on to the next sprint. Leave the past and the bullshit behind.

3. Your facilitator is too nice

Design sprints need a competent facilitator to run them. This person should largely be encouraging and facilitate the process throughout, so that everyone can remain focused and work with a shared sense of purpose.

But your facilitator also needs to be willing and able to push you and the rest of the team. If things are slowing down, going off task, or just plain don’t make sense, the facilitator is in the best position to identify this and do something about it. Call for an impromptu standup, go bring in a needed outside perspective, set a task with a time limit.

4. Your facilitator is too opinionated

Spare yourself and your team a lot of trouble, and get an outside facilitator to support the process. If your facilitator is someone with their own ideas and investment in the outcome of the sprint, they should be part of the sprint, instead of facilitating. As a participant in the sprint, an opinionated stakeholder can add a lot of value to the process and the outcome. As a facilitator, they will just obstruct the process and make it a waste of time for everyone else involved.

5. Your sprint team has no decision-making power

Design sprints that result in good ideas that will never be put to use are pointless. Make sure that the team is empowered to make an impact with their work by either giving them a mandate, or including one or two key decision-makers in the sprint team.