A sprint is a 1 week super-focused exercise where a team is gathered to work continuously on a problem. Sprints should be used to test if a concept or product will work prior to making a big resource commitment in people or money. Cristina Fonseca, founder of TalkDesk, recommend me to look at this concept.

Jake Knapp developed a sprint process [1] for Google Ventures that he then executed many times with well known startups. Jake also led sprints at Google for projects inside Gmail and Google X.
From Monday to Friday, each team member participating in the sprint should be 100% focused on the problem presented and avoid all distractions. No phones or laptops except where needed, and in short breaks. There is a maximum of 7 team members. You need a Decision Maker that takes part in the process as an individual, and in the end has the ultimate power to decide outputs. Another of those seven is the Facilitator who is in charge of schedules and the flow. You need to bring relevant people from each area of the company. Due to the level of focus needed, 6 hours should be the limit per day.

The broad tasks and schedule are defined as such by Knapp on his book[2] which I have largely maintained below:

On Monday, the team Maps the problem(s). It’s useful to draw a map of interactions between all stakeholders involved in the problem.

  • 10 am
    • Facilitator: Get checklist for the day [2].
    • Everyone: Introductions.
    • Facilitator: Explain the sprint [3].
  • 10:15 am
    • Everyone: Define the vision and goals of the company. Be optimistic.
    • Decider: Defines final wording.
    • Facilitator: Writes on the whiteboard.
  • 10:45 am
    • Everyone: Define challenges and everyone’s concerns. Get pessimistic.
    • Decider: Defines final wording.
    • Facilitator: Writes on the board.
  • 11:30 am
    • Everyone: help create a map of the process. Identify all stakeholders. Draw the completed goal of user/ customer on the other end. Then identify under 15 steps describing journey.
    • Facilitator: draws.
    • Decider: steps in to freeze last map.
  • 1 pm
    • Everyone: light lunch.
  • 2 pm
    • Everyone: Interview in experts from team and outside, customer support, etc, to bring their perspectives. 15-30 min each. Write down answers.
    • Facilitator: Updates Goal, Questions, Map.
  • 3h30 pm
    • Everyone: Write potential solutions to the problems identified on sticky notes.
  • 4 pm
    • Facilitator: Stick all ideas on a second board.
    • Everyone: Find common topics of ideas.
    • Facilitator: Organize all ideas on a board.
  • 4:10 pm
    • Everyone: Cast 2 votes with color paper. Can vote on own idea. Can vote twice per idea.
    • Decider: Has 3 special colored votes.
  • 4:30 pm
    • Facilitator: takes ideas with votes onto the map.
    • Decider: circles most important customer and target moment on the map.
    • Everyone: pitch in in picking.

On Tuesday, the team Sketches potential solutions to this problem. Individually!

  • 10 am
    • Everyone: study solutions from your and other companies even from different industries.
    • Everyone: make 3 minutes presentation per demo.
    • Facilitator: Capture good ideas with a quick drawing on the whiteboard. An idea should be a small block.
  • 12:30 pm
    • Decider: most important customer and target moment was already selected. But maybe its important to sketch connected parts of the map to that moment. Decide.
    • Everyone: pick what you’ll be working on.
  • 1 pm
    • Everyone: light lunch.
  • 2 pm
    • Everyone: Silently walk around the room. Look at map and material to date. Gather notes.
  • 2:30 pm
    • Everyone: Create your ideas.
  • 2:50 pm
    • Facilitator: warn of end of period.
    • Everyone: clean up ideas.
  • 3:00 pm
    • Everyone: Break.
  • 3:10 pm
    • Everyone: pick 1 idea you like the best, and draw it in 8 different ways, 60 seconds each. If you really want to, you can draw of more than 1 idea, still only 8 variations of 60s.
  • 3:20 pm
    • Everyone: Create a short story board to present on Wednesday that gathers your ideas. It can be 1-3 panels. Self-explanatory, anonymous, words matter, needs to have a title.
  • 4:30 pm
    • Everyone: End.

On Wednesday, the team decides.

  • 10 am
    • Facilitator: Post all ideas on a wall, without names.
    • Everyone: put one to three color stickers in the parts of each sketch that they like the most.
  • 10h30
    • Everyone: 3 min per sketch: people refer highlights of each sketch.
    • Facilitator: ask the sketcher if anything was missed.
  • 11 am
    • Everyone: one sticker vote in the best idea.
  • 11h15 am
    • Decider: Puts 3 large stickers and chooses which ideas will be tested.
  • 11h30 am
    • Break.
  • 11h40 am
    • Decider: Divide winners from “maybe-laters”.
  • 11h50 am
    • Everyone: discuss if winners can all fit one prototype or if there should be competing alternatives. In that case, use fake names.
  • 1 pm
    • Everyone: Lunch.
  • 2pm
    • Facilitator: draw a grid on the board with 10-20 squares.
    • Everyone: identify the opening scene when customer encounters product.
    • Move existing voting sketches into the appropriate squares, draw or write elsewhere.

On Thursday, the Prototype is built for testing.

  • 10 am
    • Facilitator: Assign roles: Maker, Stitcher, Writer, Asset Collector, and Interviewer.
  • 10h30
    • Makers: 2 or more. Pick fast and flexible tools. The prototype should be a façade, doesn’t have to be a real product. It should evoke the right reactions from customers. If its on a screen, simulate it on PowerPoint, Keynote, InVision or Marvel. If its on paper, use PowerPoint or Keynote or Word.
    • Stitcher: make sure all pieces make sense together, define template.
    • Writer: someone with client-domain knowledge so that descriptions are realistic.
    • Interviewer: write interview and contact people to make sure they’ll be there. Get a gift.
    • Asset colector: finds all relevant media necessary.
    • Everyone: prototype.
  • 1 pm
    • Everyone: Lunch.
  • 2 pm
    • Everyone: Prototype and stitch together.
  • 3 pm
    • Everyone: do a trial run.
    • Interviewer: check everything in triplicate.
    • Decider: check everything and decide changes.
    • Everyone: finish the prototype.

On Friday, the prototype is Tested with the help of real users. 5 testers are required. Including more people to test the prototype is usually a waste of time. There is one interviewer, the rest of the team watches through a camera. Introduce objective: not testing the person, but the prototype. Discover the interviewee. Keep asking open questions and what’s going on. Debrief, asking the person what they thought of the whole thing: good and bad. You wrap each interview.

  • 10 am
    • Everyone: set-up. 2 rooms, camera, interaction with product.
  • 11 am
    • Interviewer: person 1.
    • Everyone: take notes.
  • 12 pm
    • Interviewer: person 2.
    • Everyone: take notes.
  • 1 pm
    • lunch.
  • 2 pm
    • Interviewer: person 3.
    • Everyone: take notes.
  • 3 pm
    • Interviewer: person 4.
    • Everyone: take notes.
  • 4 pm
    • Interviewer: person 1.
    • Everyone: take notes.
  • 5 pm
    • Everyone: place notes on the map.
    • Everyone: debrief.

You can repeat 4 and 5. Good luck!

  1. The Sprint Book. Buy it!
  2. Sprint Check List
  3. Explanatory slides
  4. Tools