Could “Design Sprints” Work in Government?

Civic Hall Toronto looks at how design sprints can become a way to rethink digital service delivery for government.

Aaron Wytze
Aug 1, 2018 · 5 min read
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Code for Canada fellow Christine Lee introduces design thinking to Civic Hall Toronto members.

“Working together in a sprint, you can shortcut the endless-debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week.”

An accomplished product manager, Christine showed how design sprints can be a useful tool for government innovators, allowing them to experiment with creative service delivery models under a constrained timeline.

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Christine lays out the steps for a product development sprint.

Day 1: Start at the end

“Day 1 is all about creating a shared understanding with your team, but it’s also about understanding the problem, and selecting what part of the problem you want to focus on,” said Christine.

Day 2: Sketch out, don’t write out

If Day 1 is about problems, then Day 2 is about solutions. Taking a step back and looking at the “how might we..?” questions on the sticky notes, team members then work individually and sketch or draw simple solutions to the problem.

Day 3: Getting the best decisions on the board

Now it’s time to place the sketches up on the board, and review them individually. “It’s not about feasibility, it’s about getting the best decisions on the board,” said Christine.

Day 4: Prototyping with the tools you know

When it comes to design sprints, the software tools you have at hand are good enough. “It’s not about perfection, it’s about usability, you’re trying to make it as real possible, while still producing a product that’s quick and dirty,” Christine said.

“It’s not about perfection, it’s about usability.”

That means working with easy-to-use software like Powerpoint, Keynote or Google Slides to mock-up a prototype, and leaning on organizational software like Trello and RoadMunk to keep you on track.

Day 5: Get your idea in front of users quickly

Now’s your opportunity to let your target audience see your work. After corralling five users to look at your prototype, one team member facilitates a one-on-one interview with the user, asking questions about what they see, and get them to think aloud while playing with the product. With real user-testing data in your hands, it’s time to ask if your idea stands up to scrutiny.

Making it work for government

As Christine wrapped up her presentation, some of the civil servants had questions about how to integrate design sprints into their ongoing programs.

Interested in attending a Civic Hall Toronto event? Check out to learn more. If you want to learn more about the Code for Canada fellowship, visit our website, or attend our 2018 Showcase on August 9th!

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