Day 1 of the Design Sprint part 1.
After all the delays, we were finally ready to start sprinting. It was good that we were going to meet after many months of working remotely. It was a big discussion of whether we do the sprint remotely or in person. We decided to do it in person because the public health recommendations allowed for the meeting to happen. Plus, everyone was eager to start meeting again.
We had to take extra precautions in the planning, thankfully Sam owned several meeting rooms. So Maria and I had the luxury of choosing one big enough to host all of us while giving us plenty of space. Each participant would have their own desk to work on. Maria was a bit unsure if that would create a lot of shouting among participants so they could talk to each other. But since one of the mantras of the design sprint is working together alone, I told her that his might be actually a good thing.
The experts were meeting via remote though. They were not so convinced about making the trip, so we needed to adjust the set-up to allow for fun videoconferencing. Again, we need to adjust the rules because when you are the only one connecting remotely to a team that is on the same location, it can be a bit cumbersome to the person on a remote location.
Maria was willing to go and buy or rent the top of the line video conferencing software and equipment available. I told her that I did not think it was necessary. We already had access to videoconferencing software, which we had been using during the virtual meetings. People were already familiar with it and there was no point on reinventing the wheel.
The day before we sent all team participants an email with a brief description of what was going to happen:
“To: Members Project Curie
Subject: Welcome to the Design Sprint in Times of COVID
Dear members of Project Curie,
First all, I am sure you are wondering what is Project Curie. We needed a name for the project, Sam the Guide will be the name of the app, but right now to keep things internally easier to talk, we are going to call it in honour of Marie Curie. If you don’t know who she is or the name just rings a bell, I highly recommend that you start with her Nobel Prize autobiography. She won the Nobel prize twice, once in physics and once in chemistry, the only person to win them on those two categories, and one of four who have won the prize twice.
Tomorrow we will start with the Design Sprint. It will be fun, exciting but also a lot of work. There will be snacks, coffee and water to be consumed during the event, so don’t worry, you won’t be hungry. You don’t need to bring oThe way the Design Sprint is conducted is a bit different than other meetings or workshops you’ve attended. First, there is a “NO PHONE/COMPUTERS” rule. There will be breaks to check them, but please plan ahead that you won’t be able to respond right away to your email and your messages. Second, discussions are kept at a minimum. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of exchange of ideas, we just rely on other methods to make sure every voice is heard.
We will have the presence of experts during the meeting, they will connect via videoconference. Please make them feel as if they were present in the room with us. Please no side talking or openly doing other things while they are talking. Their input is important to move the sprint forward.
Finally, we are still in the middle of a public health crisis. The space is big enough for everyone and we each will have our own space, but please remember to take care and follow the official recommendations: bring your facemask, keep a minimum distance, stay home if you don’t feel well.
Looking forward to tomorrow!”
Maria and I arrived before anyone else to prepare everything. As we were dividing sticky-notes on each desk Sam arrived. It was still a good half an hour before it started.
“Project Curie, uh?, oh well, I guess being the boss means I get no vote on naming things any more… or having my name removed from the project. If it wasn’t because I think Madam Curie and her daughter are the great role models I would kick some ass.” — She said instead of a simple good morning. She looked sternly at us. Maria had told me she had informed her mom before we sent the email, I couldn’t just push Maria under the bus as we both had sent the email. I was a bit speechless, but then Sam started laughing her head off.
“Project Curie is a great name.” She said looking at us — “I am half relief that I don’t need to use my phone today. I already told people that today and tomorrow I’d unavailable. Hopefully, people can clean their ass without consulting with me.” She said as she sat on her table and started drinking her coffee.
Everyone else arrived 10 minutes earlier to the meeting room. I think it was the first that the participants were together with each other on a while. As it was recommended, there was no buffet style. We told everyone to go to their desks right away and each of them had a coffee, a croissant and a bottle of water there. Maria, who helped me organize everything, was also a participant. I was the only facilitator.
Abraham came with a helper, the helper was going to be checking emails and phone calls and have everything ready for the breaks.
“I need to authorize payments. There is a process on which I can transfer that to other users, but it is not worth doing it only for two days. So on each break, I will go quickly to system and authorize whatever is needed. Or ask why is it so much.”
I decided to give everyone about 20 minutes to catch-up before I started. They have not seen each other in a while, I did not want to dent the energy of the group. I just reminded everyone to stay on their desk, they were properly measured to make sure distance was observed.
Because of the extra 10 minutes I gave the team, I cut my introduction short. The first expert was starting soon and I just wanted to get everyone on sync.
“Hello, members of project Curie! All of you have a block of sticky-notes in front of you and a sharpie. These are our tools for this week, whenever we need something else, we are going to provide it to you, so don’t worry about anything but engaging with the content.
We are going to be working for the next 90 minutes and then we will have a break. So if you need to check your messages or anything, do it during the break.
We have three experts participating today, they will talk to us about empowering businesswomen to start their businesses. Everything will be recorded for the future, I want you to take notes but differently that you’d do. You are going to be writing challenges. All challenges start with the phrase: How might we, or HMW. Make sure every note has HMW written on it, it will help frame your challenge. Please only write one HMW per note. It is a numbers game, so the more you have the better, don’t worry if it is too clever or too dumb. You are here because we believe you bring value to this project, we want you as you are, so please, just enjoy it.
The types of challenges we wanted to be addressable, do not focus on something so broad that it is not possible to tackle or so specific that there is no point of addressing it in a meeting. I know the balance is hard to tell, but I prefer that you produce as many challenges as possible, rather than restricting you because your challenge is too narrow or too broad. Please write your challenges based on what you know at this moment about the project, plus what the experts are saying, write it down. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, just raise your hand and I will give you a chance to ask a question.
The experts are connecting using videoconference, so there will be a small delay, so please wait until I the expert acknowledges that there is a question coming.
We have each expert for 20 minutes individually, and then at the end, we will have the three of them together for 30 minutes. They all will listen to each other and any question you may have.
Finally, remember the objective of the app is to coach businesswomen.”
The session went really well, I, with my facemask, was moderating the session and waking behind each desk just to check if they were writing challenges and if they were doing it. I was afraid of silence or a bad connection. Fortunately, besides a few hiccups when the three experts were together, as because of the delay sometimes they would talk over each other, everything else went OK.
On average, they created about 30 HWMs each. So we had about 240 HMWs in total, a huge number!
I gave the group a 15-minute break. I saw Sam and Abraham running to their phones to catch with calls and messages. The rest of the team also checked their emails except for Maria, who took notes on what the experts had said.
During this time I arranged the post-its according to themes and patterns. I identified some that were too broad: e.g. HMW fight sexism. But in general, they looked like a good starting point. I arrange them in columns and then I added a title/topic to each of them.
I had warned Sam that I would start sharply each session, so about 3 minutes before the starting came, I gave her a signal to hang-up. She obliged, and then everyone followed suit.
The next stage was to ask them to vote for the challenges that they thought were the best ones to address. I told them they are free to rearrange the post-its if they feel it would fit better on a different category. Each of them got 7 votes, in the form of a sticker, and they could vote for 7 or 1 challenge that they believe would yield most potential. There were a total of 56 votes to distribute.
After I started the clock, I started playing some music and got out of the way to let them concentrate.
At the end of the 7 minutes, all votes were cast. We had some clear winners and many many without any votes at all.
“We are going to use them later today, but for the moment, we need to focus on something else, we need to define our goals for the sprint.” — I said.
— — Continues on part 2.