Sprint

Sprint

Author
Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, Braden Kowitz
Year
2016
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Review

I have a real soft spot for this book. I read it soon after it was published, just in time for it to inform some discovery work I was doing. It is refreshingly practical and amazing for those doing discovery work for the first time. While more experienced individuals may find the Sprint format a little rigid, each time I re-read this book, I discover something new.

Learning facilitation skills can be challenging, as failures can be both painful and subtle. This book provides many small facilitation tips that, when combined, are incredibly powerful. It would take you a few years to learn these tips on your own.

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Key Takeaways

The 20% that gave me 80% of the value.

  • Don’t build a minimal product to validate an idea → first focus on getting real data from a realistic prototype (before making expensive commitments)
  • A Sprint helps you assess what customer reaction to your final product will be like
    • Sprints are successful regard are successful the payoff can be high
    • But Sprints that fail provide huge value by quickly identifying critical flaws
  • The Sprint Format
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Map out the problem
Sketch competing solutions
Decide on the best idea
Build a realistic prototype
Test with target customers
Choose a target to focus on
Create testable hypothesis
  • Focus on the biggest question. Go after your most important problem. The bigger the challenge the better the Sprint. Make it high stakes. Not having enough time fosters creativity. No problem is too large for a Sprint.
  • Solve the surface first. Focus on the customer interaction parts of the product. Get the human interaction right, and you can work out backstage systems and processes later
  • Limit your team to 7 people or less. You need some builders and a blend of people who have different expertise. Bring the troublemaker. It’s better that they feel invested in the project. Pick a facilitator to keep things to schedule and organise everyone.
  • Clear the entire week. Stay in the same place so you can decorate it. Don’t allow folks to check devices inside the room. Make sure you have lots of whiteboard space.

Monday

  • Set a long-term goal: Why are we doing this project? Where do we want to be in 6 months, 1 year or even 5 years from now?
  • Capture the difficult questions that must be answered? What assumptions need to be true for us to succeed? What are the reasons why our project might fail?
  • Create a map of the experience from beginning to end. Steps to create the map: List the actors on the left, write the ending on the right, add words and arrows in between, keep it simple and ask your experts for help.
  • Knowledge is distributed across your organisation. Nobody knows everything. So interview a bunch of stakeholders about your problem space.
  • Choose a target for your Sprint. Narrow things down to the most important customer and most critical moment. Clustering How Might We notes should make it clear what to focus on. Add the best HMWs to your map.

Tuesday

  • Start with lightning demos for inspiration. Think inside and outside of your company and industry. Everything should contain something you can learn from. Get everyone to do demo their favourite in a lightning demo of 3 minutes or less. Capture big ideas a you go → create a whiteboard of ideas. Combine ideas with HMWs or the map from yesterday
  • Start coming up with and sketching solutions. Sketching helps you explain what you mean to colleagues. It’s the fastest and easiest way to transform abstract ideas into concrete solutions and communicate them. Work alone together → you’ll generate more solutions, you can do more research, find inspiration and think about the problem.
    • Four-Step Sketching Technique:
      1. Gather key info in note form {review your inspiration} (20 mins)
      2. Doodle rough solutions (20 mins)
      3. Try rapid variations {using crazy eights = folding paper into 8) (8 mins)
      4. Figure out the details {sketch the solution} (30+ mins)
    • The best sketches are:
      • self explanatory
      • kept anonymous,
      • words are chosen carefully (copywriting)
      • have a catchy title

Wednesday

  • Decide what sketches to prototype. Put the sketches on the wall, look at solutions in silence, use dot stickers to mark interesting parts. Quickly discuss highlights of each solution (3 mins), use sticky notes to capture big ideas. Get each person to choose one solution (by voting with a sticker). The decider(s) make the final decision (by voting with stickers).
    • More than one great idea? Either combine them, or build them both and pit them against each other
  • Storyboard your winning ideas in more detail (15 frames). Choose an opening scene. Fill in all the detail. Make sure you can test it in 15 minutes.

Thursday

  • Build a prototype that looks real enough to get a genuine reaction. The goldilocks prototype quality… is when you spend just enough time to make it real enough, and not too much time that you’re wasting time on polish.
    • Focus on the facade, the bit the customer interacts with.
    • You should have everything you need to move fast from yesterday, Thursday is just about building. You should have basic components, copywriting and details
    • Make sure you use the right tools (keep it rough with Keynote)
    • Assigning different roles will help you move faster
      • Makers: create individual components.
      • Stitcher: collect components and combine them seamlessly
      • Writer: make all the text realistic
      • Asset collector: grabs images, icons and sample content
      • Interviewer: writes the interview script
    • Stitch everything together at the end and make sure the story (numbers, dates, prices etc are consistent)

Friday

  • 85% of problems will be exposed after just 5 people. Then you’re better off fixing the problems you find and testing again… it’s faster than testing with more people to find more
  • Interviews give you a signal as to wether the product is effective or not. They also tell you why. They’re easy to do well, just be friendly, curious and open to having your assumptions proved wrong.
  • The five act interview:
    1. A friendly welcome
    2. Some general open-ended context questions about the customer
    3. Introduce the prototype (make it clear you didn’t design it and want frank feedback)
    4. Tasks designed to get the customer to react to the prototype. Nudge: what’s this? what do you think that’s for? What do you expect that will do?
    5. A quick debrief (to capture customer’s overarching thoughts, impressions). How does it compare to what you do now? How would you describe the product to a friend? If you had 3 wishes to improve the product, what would you do?
      • If comparing prototypes… Ask which is best, pros and cons and how would you combine them.
  • Early employees of AirBnB described their early interviews as agonising and enlightening as they uncovered so many problems.
  • Collect interview insights on a whiteboard grid. Columns are customers, rows are parts of your product or user experience. Get everyone to put up their sticky notes of quotes, observations or interpretations from the interviews . Colour code the notes (Green for positive, red for negative, black for neutral). Look for patterns across the whiteboard (the more customers react in the same way the stronger the signal). List them on another and label them as positive, negative or neutral.
  • Review your long-term goal and sprint questions. Can you answer them now?
Every interview draws you and your team closer to the people you’re trying to help with your product or service
  • Every sprint you run will close the gap to your vision
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Deep Summary

Longer form notes, typically condensed, reworded and de-duplicated.

Introduction

Example Sprint
A sprint to understand how hotel robots should behave around guests. (it’s best to focus on a single question)
Monday
• Those involved clear their calendars for the week. • Reviewed the problem • Identified guest satisfaction as the critical measure • Create a map to identify the big risks (like a story) • Focused on a specific moment (delivery of an item to room)
Tuesday
• Switched from problems to solutions • Everyone sketched solutions
Wednesday
• Time to narrow down the solutions on the wall • Voting and structured discussion help a group decide quickly • Agreed on which idea(s) to test, documented each solution
Thursday
• Get the prototype ready for the test on Friday • Prototype has to function just enough to make the test effective
Friday
◦ Testing with real people in a realistic scenario ◦ They interviewed a guests, and got them to order down for a toothbrush, kept asking them questions, until the robots arrived. And then reviewed their reactions. ◦ The guests loved the robots, and were full of smiles ◦ They had no problem retrieving the toothbrushes ◦ They loved the robot victory dance → which helped the team appreciate the a characterful robot could boost guest satisfaction
  • Good ideas are hard to find and even the best face an uncertain path to success
  • Execution is hard. Where do you focus? Where do you start?
  • Don’t build a minimal product to validate an idea → first focus on getting real data from a realistic prototype (before making expensive commitments)
  • A Sprint helps you assess what customer reaction to your final product will be like
    • If Sprints are successful the payoff can be high
    • But Sprints that fail provide huge value by quickly identifying critical flaws
  • The Sprint Format
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Map out the problem
Sketch competing solutions
Decide on the best idea
Build a realistic prototype
Test with target customers
Choose a target to focus on
Create testable hypothesis

Set the Stage

1: The Challenge

  • Focus on the biggest question
  • Generate lots of solutions. Prioritise what to test, you can test more than one thing but you’ll need to build them all in a day
  • The bigger the challenge the better the Sprint. Make it high stakes. Not having enough time fosters creativity.
  • Go after your most important problem
  • No problem is too large for a Sprint.
  • Solve the surface first. Focus on the customer interaction parts of the product. Get the human interaction right, and you can work out backstage systems and processes later

2: Team

  • You need the right team to pull off a Sprint
  • Limit to 7 people or less, ELSE things slow down
    • You want some builders (PMs, Designers, Engineers)
    • Get a mix of people with different expertise
    • A couple of experts with specialised knowledge can help too (Finance, Sales, Ops, Support)
Team Roles
Decider
An official decision maker with a strong grasp of the problem. You need a decider, get them in the room. If you can’t delegate decision making power if you need to. If only partial, you need them on Monday, Wednesday afternoon and Friday afternoon.
Finance Expert
Who can explain where the money comes from and where it goes
Marketing Expert
Who can craft a message to customers
Customer Expert
Who talks to your customers regularly?
Tech/logistics expert
Who best understands what you can build and deliver
Design expert
Who designs the products your company makes
  • Bring the troublemaker. It’s better that they feel invested in the project
  • Schedule experts to come in Monday and share their view
  • Pick a facilitator to keep things to schedule and organise everyone.
  • Don’t combine the decider and the facilitator. Outside facilitators work well for this reason.

3: Time and Space

  • Clear the entire week
  • Go 10:00 to 17:00, take an hour for lunch, take a short break in the middle of your morning and afternoon session. That gives you 6 hours.
  • Don’t allow devices → they’ll result in distractions
    • You can check in the break.
    • You can leave the room to check a device
  • You need lots of whiteboard space (2 big ones minimum). If you need more bring in whiteboards on wheels, idea paint or paper
  • Stay in the same room.
  • Get a bunch of supplies before you start (sticky notes, markers, pens, timers, paper, healthy snacks)
  • Use a clock to keep everyone moving forward

Monday

Start at the End

  • Slow down, share what you know, prioritise or you’ll waste time and effort on the wrong part of the problem. We need to get organised and sort our priorities before starting on solutions
  • Start at the End Exercise
    1. Set a long-term goal: Why are we doing this project? Where do we want to be in 6 months, 1 year or even 5 years from now?
    2. What are the difficult questions that must be answered? What assumptions need to be true for us to succeed? What are the reasons why our project might fail? Rephrase obstacles as questions

Map

  • Creating a simple diagram to represent a lot of complexity
  • The map will be used later to narrow the broad challenge to a specific target
  • The maps helps you keep track of how things fit together, and they relieve everyone’s memory
  • No matter how complicated the problem, it can be mapped with a few words and arrows
  • You’re mapping the big moments, who interacts with who to do what?
  • Maps are customer centric.
  • Each map has a story with a beginning, middle and end.
  • Steps to create the map:
    • List the actors on the left
    • Write the ending on the right
    • Add words and arrows in between
    • Keep it simple
    • Ask for help
    • Example:
      image
  • It should take just 30-60 minutes

Ask the Experts

  • Knowledge is distributed across your organisation. Nobody knows everything.
  • Devote most of Monday afternoon to ask the experts
  • One-at-a-time interviews with folks from the Sprint team and around the business
    • Get somebody to speak to strategy, voice of the customer, how things work and previous efforts
  • Format: Introduce the sprint, review the whiteboards, ask them to tell you everything, get everyone to ask questions and fix the whiteboards
  • Get everyone to take notes (How Might We Notes)
  • Each Post-it is a How Might We question
  • At the end of the interview, stick them on the wall, organise into groups, label the groups / themes (include a Misc theme to round up the outliers)
  • Then Vote on HMW notes (give everyone a couple of dots)
  • After voting is over, take the winning notes and place them on your Map

Target

  • The final task on Monday is to choose a target for your Sprint:
    • Who is the most important customer? Choose one.
    • What’s the critical moment of the customer experience? Choose one.
  • Focus on the biggest risk or biggest opportunity
  • Clustering the HMW notes makes choosing a focus point easier
  • Ask the decider to make the call. Get everyone to write a vote on a post-it and give to the decider if they need help

Tuesday

Remix and Improve

  • Start with lightning demos for inspiration:
    • Make a list of inspiring products or services with relevant solutions
      • Think inside and outside of your company and industry
      • Everything should contain something you can learn from
    • Get everyone to do demo their favourite in a lightning demo of 3 minutes or less
    • Capture big ideas a you go → create a whiteboard of ideas
    • Combine ideas with HMWs or the map from yesterday

Sketch

  • Tuesday afternoon is the time to start coming up with solutions
  • Work individually take your time and sketch
  • Start on paper (drawing ability doesn’t matter)
  • Sketching helps you explain what you mean to colleagues. It’s the fastest and easiest way to transform abstract ideas into concrete solutions and communicate them
  • Work alone together → You’ll generate more solutions, you can do more research, find inspiration and think about the problem
  • Sketches created on Tuesday become the fuel for the rest of the Sprint
  • Sketches should be detailed but they’re not works of art
  • Start with the first small action the user needs to take, and go from there
  • Four-Step Sketching Technique:
    1. Gather key info in note form {review your inspiration} (20 mins)
    2. Doodle rough solutions (20 mins)
    3. Try rapid variations {using crazy eights = folding paper into 8) (8 mins)
    4. Figure out the details {sketch the solution} (30+ mins)
  • The best sketches are:
    • Self explanatory
    • Anonymous
    • Choose words carefully (copywriting)
    • Have a catchy title
  • Everyone has to produce one solution sketch, you can do more if you like
  • Don’t do anything with them until the next day!

Wednesday

Decide

  • Wednesday mornings are for deciding which solution(s) to prototype
  • Five Step Process:
    1. Put the sketches on the wall
    2. Look at solutions in silence, use dot stickers to mark interesting parts
    3. Quickly discuss highlights of each solution (3 mins), use sticky notes to capture big ideas
    4. Get each person to choose one solution (by voting with a sticker)
    5. The decider(s) make the final decision (by voting with stickers)

Rumble

  • When you have two great ideas → prototype them both and see which one tests better
  • A rumble is pitting two ideas against each other on Friday
  • If you can combine two sketches into a single product, do that instead
  • Facilitate a short discussion to decide if to Rumble or create an All-In-One
  • If you’re creating two products, quickly create a second test for the second product

Storyboard

  • Take the winning sketches and put them into a storyboard
  • Use about 10-15 panels to create a connected cohesive story
  • Use the storyboard to imagine the finished prototype → sort out problems and points of confusion up-front
  • Draw your storyboard, include the best ideas, and create a story everyone can
  • Present your idea alongside the competition (you can get your customers to test the competition alongside yours)
  • Storyboard steps:
    1. Draw a grid
    2. Choose the opening scene
    3. Fill out the storyboard
      • Work with what you have
      • Include just enough detail
      • Get the decider to decide
      • When in doubt, take risks
      • Make sure it can be tested in 15 minutes or less (focus on the most important solutions)

Thursday

Fake it

  • Thursday is about illusion → fake your solution → make a prototype that feels real
  • It’s easier to build a facade than you think → 90% is real enough to test
  • You’ve done the difficult part already → the storyboard makes it clear what to include
    • You should have basic components, copywriting and details
  • You could spend more than a day on a prototype but you’re better off learning from it quickly
    • The longer you spend on something, the more attached to it you become
  • The prototype mindset:
    • You can prototype anything.
    • Prototypes are disposable
    • Build just enough to learn, but not more
    • The prototype must appear real
  • Your prototype is real enough when customers react naturally and honestly
    • Show something too rough, and customers will just start giving feedback.
    • Reactions are gold → feedback isn’t
  • Goldilocks prototype quality… spending just enough time to make it real enough, and too much time that you need to polish it

Prototype

  • Four exercises that’ll help you make your prototypes successful
    1. Pick the right tools:
      • Your everyday tools aren’t right for prototyping because your prototype only needs to appear real
      • “We’re 90% sure you should use Keynote”
        • Use Keynote if it’s on a screen or on paper
        • If it’s a service → use your team as actors
        • If it’s a physical space → modify an existing space
        • IF it’s an object → use an existing object, 3D print or just prototype the marketing
    2. Divide and conquer
      • Assign different roles:
        • Makers: create individual components.
        • Stitcher: collect components and combine them seamlessly
        • Writer: make all the text realistic
        • Asset collector: grabs images, icons and sample content
        • Interviewer: writes the interview script
      • Divide up the storyboard
      • Don’t forget the opening scene to set the scene
    3. Stitch it together
      • The stitcher makes sure dates, times and names are consistent throughout the prototype
    4. Do a trial run
      • Aim to do a trial run at 3pm and you’ll learn some stuff.

Friday

Small data

  • One person interviews 5 target customers.
  • Let each complete a task with the prototype → while asking questions to understand what they’re thinking
  • Everyone else note takes in the other room watching the customers reaction on video
  • After 5 interviews normally a pattern emerges (especially if you have a tight definition of a target customer)
  • Neilson Norman Group: 85% of problems were observed after just 5 people. Then you’re better off fixing the problems you find and testing again… it’s faster than testing with more people to find more
  • Interviews allow you to test a facade of a product before you’ve built the real thing.
    • You’ll get a signal as to wether the product is effective or not
    • You’ll also be able to understand ‘why’ behind any issues
  • Interviews are easy to do: be friendly, curious and open to having your assumptions proved wrong

Interview

  • The Five act interview:
    1. A friendly welcome
    2. Some general open-ended context questions about the customer
      • Make the customer more comfortable, and can unearth useful information
    3. Introduce the prototype
      • Some things aren’t working yet, if you run into something that isn’t working I’ll let you know
      • Ask for frank candid feedback (say you didn’t design it and they can’t hurt your feelings)
      • Ask them to think aloud as they go, and say if they get confused
    4. Tasks designed to get the customer to react to the prototype
      • Nudge: what’s this? what do you think that’s for? What do you expect that will do?
    5. A quick debrief (to capture customer’s overarching thoughts, impressions)
      • How does it compare to what you do now?
      • How would you describe the product to a friend?
      • If you had 3 wishes to improve the product, what would you do?
      • If comparing prototypes… Ask which is best, pros and cons and how would you combine them.
  • Early employees of AirBnB described their early interviews as agonising and enlightening as they uncovered so many problems.

Learn

  • Watching the interviews together helps a group absorb the results at once and makes decision making easier afterwards
  • Draw a grid on a whiteboard. Columns are customers, rows are parts of your product or user experience
    • Get everyone to put up their sticky notes of quotes, observations or interpretations from the interviews
  • If you can colour code the notes (Green for positive, red for negative, black for neutral)
  • Look for patterns across the whiteboard (the more customers react in the same way the stronger the signal). List them on another and label them as positive, negative or neutral.
  • Review your long-term goal and sprint questions. Can you answer them now?
Every interview draws you and your team closer to the people you’re trying to help with your product or service
  • Every sprint you run will close the gap to your vision

Mindsets:

  • Don’t jump to solutions, map our the problem and agree on a target.
  • Work independently, to make detailed sketches of possible solutions.
  • Use voting and a decider to make crisp decisions that reflect your team’s priorities
  • Create a prototype and quickly test with customers to get their honest reactions

Schedule and tips

Set the stage
Choose a big challenge
Use Sprints for High stakes, limited time or if stuck
Get a decider or two
You need a decision maker in the room
Recruit a team
Some builders, some diverse expertise
Schedule extra experts
Knowledge is distributed. 15 min stakeholder interviews.
Pick a facilitator
To move the team along
Clear calendars
10am to 5pm Mon-Fri
Book a Room
Two whiteboards, timers, healthy snacks, stationary
Recruit on Tue
Assign a recruiter
Put somebody in charge of recruiting customers Friday
Write a screener survey
You only want to test with your target customers
Use your network
Of existing customers
Follow up
Make sure they show up on Friday
Buy gift cards
$100 gift card is a good incentive
5 is the magic number
After 5 interviews big patterns will emerge
Facilitator tips
Ask for permission
Get permission at the start to move everyone along
ABC
Always be capturing
Ask obvious questions
Ask why a lot
Take care of humans
Give people breaks, snacks etc
Decide and move on
Slow decisions are energy sappers. Don’t drain the battery.
Mindsets/etc
Remix and improve
Don’t be shy about borrowing ideas
Concrete beats abstract
Sketches help communicate ideas
Work alone together
Group brainstorms don’t work
Interview tips
Be a good host
Keep them comfortable, and smile
Ask open questions
Who, what, where, why, how? Not yes/no questions.
Ask broken questions
Trail off at the end, silence encourages them to talk
Be curious
Be fascinated by their thoughts, reactions

Monday

10:00
Introductions
Round of intros, highlight facilitator and decider
Explain Sprint
Speak through the process / this checklist
10:15
Set a long-term goal
Why are we doing this? Where do we want to be in 1,5 years?
List Sprint Questions
How could we fail? What assumptions are awe making?
11:30
Make a map
Start with customers/key players on the left, the ending on the right then make a flowchart showing key interactions
13:00
Lunch Break
Eat together, nothing heavy
14:00
Ask the experts
15 mins each, extract what they know
Explain How Might We
Reframe problems as opportunities. One idea per note.
16:00
Organise HMW notes
Group and label.
Vote on HMW notes
2 votes each (no self voting or doubling up). Move winners onto map.
16:30
Pick a target
Circle most important customer and target moment on the map. Decider makes the call.

Tuesday

10:00
Lightning Demos
3 min presentations of inspirational demos from in/outside industry. Capture the best ideas and place them on map.
12:30
Divide or swarm
Decide who’ll sketch each part of the map.
13:00
Lunch
14:00
The Four-Step Sketch
20 mins to gather notes 20 mins to jot down best ideas 8 mins crazy 8’s. Create many variations 30-90 mins to sketch the solution

Wednesday

10:00
Sticky decision
Tape sketches to the wall. Place dots beside parts you like. 3 mins of discussion on each sketch. Capture ideas and objections. Silent voting on favourite idea Decider decides.
11:30
Separate winners
Move surviving sketches together
Rumble or all-in-one
Decide wether to combine or prototype multiple solutions
13:00
Lunch
14:00
Make a storyboard
Plan your prototype in more detail. 15 square grid, set an opening scene, move sketches to storyboard.

Thursday

10:00
Pick the right tools
Don’t use everyday tools. Keynote is great.
Divide an conquer
Assign roles: Marker, writer, stitcher, asset collector, interviewer
Prototype!
13:00
Lunch
14:00
Prototype!
Stitch it together
Stitcher brings everything together and looks after continuity
15:00
Do a trial run
Run through your prototype. Look for mistakes. Make the interviewer and decider are comfortable
Finish the prototype
Write an interview script. Aim for goldilocks quality (just good enough to get an honest genuine reaction)

Friday

9:00
Interview 1
Friendly Welcome. Context Questions. Introduce Prototype. Tasks and nudes. Debrief.
10:00
Break
10:30
Interview 2
11:30
Early Lunch
12:30
Interview 3
13:30
Break
14:00
Interview 4
15:00
Break
15:30
Interview 5
16:40
Debrief
Look for patterns, make a list of patterns. Label as positive, negative or neutral.
Wrap up: Review long-term goals, sprint questions. Decide on next steps.