I recently read a book about The Sprint model written by Jane Knapp, from Google Ventures which promises to solve company’s most difficult challenges in a five-day intensive workshop. Google Ventures is Google’s own accelerator which invests money into promising startups and mentors them forward. The method has evolved over hundreds of workshops that Knapp has facilitated.
The idea is to use a whole week to solve a certain business challenge together with the company’s core team. The method can be used, for example, in productization, brand strategy, website reformation, or conceptualization of a digital product – regardless of industry. For example, Slack developed bot assisted user guidance with the help of The Sprint.
The idea of The Sprint seemed initially problematic. How can the whole team make calendars free for a whole week? Does The Sprint work also for my company? Can this specific challenge be solved? What if the outcome backfires?
We went to test
We were approached by a startup which had a great idea for a new digital product and slightly investor money. Nothing was ready, the product was nothing but an idea and Tekes Innovation voucher was burning in the pocket. We booked the days into our calendars and went to test. We wanted to know if the startup’s business idea was functional, i.e. is it worth developing the product and will the idea be sustainable.
Here are the outlines of the sprint:
On Monday targets for The Sprint are set and awareness raised of the obstacles preventing from achieving of the targets.
On Tuesday a decision is made which problems are to be resolved with The Sprint. Tuesday is for brainstorming together.
On Wednesday the best ideas are chosen and a manuscript for the prototype is drafted.
Thursday is dedicated for the construction and testing of the prototype.
On Friday the prototype is tested with representatives of the target group in order to get the most authentic reactions of the product.
How did it go?
“This is really damn good!”
The Sprint could not have gone better. The busy schedule made sure that decisions were made quickly and effectively. We achieved more in five days than most startups do in a year. The end result was praised by Tekes.
Four of the five testers would have taken the software into use right away. The testers also called our customers after The Sprint inquiring when the app will be in use. What could have been a better validation for a business idea?
A week sounds like a long time for one workshop. But when you look at the end result one can’t help to wonder how much time and money The Sprint really saves – if the results are positive, you know that the direction is right and important decisions have been made in the right stage. If the results are negative from the product point of view huge amount of time is spared because not developing a product, brand, or service that does not interest the end user.
Come hell or high water – with the sprint you always win.
Here are miscellaneous thoughts and tips for The Sprint facilitators:
- I was in The Sprint as a facilitator and a designer. Fatigue began to press at the end of the process. Perhaps it would be easier to play just one role.
- The Sprint succeeded so well because the customer knew about agile product development principles before The Sprint. If that is not the case, it may be a good idea to refresh the knowledge of lean techniques with the team before The Sprint.
- It may be good for organizations to hire an external facilitator for The Sprint. The facilitator has to take care of the clock and the smoothness of the workshop which can be easier task for a neutral facilitator.
- Urgency belongs to the nature of The Sprint. For some constantly visible ticking clock causes stress. You should try using the clock at the beginning and then adjust it to your own liking. At this point the facilitator needs to keep the tentacles up. Our team stopped using the clock on Wednesday although time was still monitored.
- For the construction of the prototype you should reserve good team and enough of extra pair of hands. We had a long stretch on Thursday.
- Cancellations happen always. It is worth reserving an extra expert for Monday and an extra tester for Friday. We got one cancellation on Friday but luckily we got a fill-in. Unlike in the book we acquired testers already during the previous week. From my point of view this is a good practice.
- It’s good to be aware of that during The Sprint you will have to live in the middle of uncertainty. However I urge you to keep your mind hopeful because the method can be trusted. There was little doubt about the power of The Sprint in the early days but those fell off by Wednesday.
- The Sprint is structured and designed in a splendid manner. There is just enough time for the works. On Wednesday we finalized the manuscript for the prototype before the deadline but on Thursday we noticed deficiencies in our plan.
I recommend The Sprint to any candid companies regardless of your background. If you would like to hear more about The Sprint, please email petteri(at)redandblue.fi.