CX Design Sprints — Part 1: Prep

Preparing the space, who to invite, and sprint plan.

A dedicated space is essential — it won’t stay this neat for long.

Welcome to the first in a series of posts about running a CX design sprint. In just five days, you’ll profile your customers and their current journey, ideate new ways to address their pains, prototype your boldest and best ideas, and test them with end users.

This post looks at the broad process you’ll follow, who to invite to each session, and what to prepare.

Why a CX design sprint?

Sprints minimise waste in the design and validation process— design sprints force you to work quickly, cheaply, and boldly. It’s practically impossible to blow budgets because you physically don’t have enough time.

Above all, design sprints are about prototyping and validating your boldest ideas before committing to a full development cycle.

When should you do a design sprint?

Don’t just do a design sprint for any old problem. They require a bit of concerted effort and a lot of energy. In my experience, design sprints work best when you’re taking your first step into uncharted territory, i.e. you’re operating under enormous amounts of uncertainty.

Better to find out now whether your craziest idea works for your customers now than later when you’ve committed resources to development.

Be a hardcore prepper

It’s essential that you have the right space for the sprint team to move around and work in. They need somewhere to paste their sticky notes, sketch, and pace. Most importantly, the space needs to be dedicated for the entirety of the sprint.

Make sure you’ve got enough of the usual suspects like sticky notes, sharpies, blue-tac etc. Print out copies of the frameworks and check questions you’ll be running people through. The more structure you provide as a facilitator, the better.

Who should attend?

Design sprints are all about compressing the amount of effort a team throws at a new project into a short period of time — think fast-paced, intense sessions that force you to think on your feet and make decisions to avoid bottlenecks. This means that major stakeholders, i.e. decision makers need to be present for most of each session to make a lot of tough decisions — quickly.

Other than that, keep the sessions fluid. Have a question that someone in sales knows the answer to? Steal 15 minutes of their time and get them to validate your thinking and answer your questions.

Sprint activities

Design sprints aren’t meant to be rigid beyond that the activities should happen back-to-back and culminate with a rapid prototype and user validation.

With this in mind, I base my CX sprints on a bastardised version of Lean-Startup (Build, Measure, Learn) by bringing an initial Measure phase to the front of the sprint. This was to give the team two sessions to reflect on their current perception of the customer base and to map out how they‘re engaging with the business.

Day 1–2: Measure — Customer Profiles and Journey Map

The first two days are dedicated to establishing a baseline of what the customer experience currently looks like.

On day one, I use the Customer Profile component of Strategyzer’s awesome Value Proposition canvas to define three distinct profiles. I prefer using customer profiling to personas because it incorporates Jobs-to-be-Done and pains and gains rather than relying just on psychographics.

Day two is dedicated to doing a current customer journey map to take stock of the status quo: how are customers currently engaging with your business, and what are their biggest pains?

While it’s great to be detailed during the mapping, try not to get too hung up on minor pains: you’re looking for problems worth solving in profound and delightful ways!

Day 3–4: Build — Ideate and Prototype

The third and fourth day of your sprint are a flurry of activity. First, you’ll ideate new and profound ways to address your customer’s pains or delight them throughout the journey. I like to prepare between 5–10 ‘How Might We…’ prompts before an ideation session to give the group somewhere to start. Once you’re done ideating, it’s time to heatmap to help the team converge their thinking. This is also the time to get decision makers involved to veto any ideas that they don’t consider feasible.

Now, choose your biggest, boldest, most innovative idea and storyboard how you could rapidly prototype it so that you can test it with your customers.

You’ve only got one day to build your prototype, so you’re going to make it so you can fake it!

You’ll be astounded at how much you can build in a single day using the tools you use in your everyday working life, whether it’s as basic as PowerPoint or physically building something using cardboard boxes and a glue gun.

Day 5: Learn — Validation

You’ve made it! It’s time to see what real-life customers actually think about your prototype. Don’t worry if it feels like a bit of a hack-job — your goal is to mine your customers for feedback gold. They’re less inclined to hold back when they can see that you haven’t invested too much time and effort into your prototype.


OK, that was a whirlwind introduction to the idea of a CX sprint. The next posts in this series will explore Day 1: Measure in more detail.