Design Sprint Q&A

Thaisa Fernandes⚡
Aug 25 · 11 min read

Clarifying questions about the Design Sprint framework.

Photo by Mia Baker on Unsplash

Early this year, I helped to facilitate a Design Sprint workshop for the Experience Design conference in Denver. The workshop was amazing, and we had really smart and engaged participants.

During the workshop I created a Kanban board with the questions the participants asked, and after rereading it, I thought the questions were very interesting and provided more clarity around the Design Sprint Process.

Koji Pereira a Product Design Manager at Lyft (previously at Google), is a Design Sprint Master, and I asked him some questions, and he shared a bit of his experience leading Design Sprints in the past five years.

Before we start to dig deeper, if you don’t know a lot about Design Sprint, I recommend reading this article first. If you are experienced with Design Sprint, please jump ahead and share with me your thoughts!

🌍 What has changed with Design Sprint over the years?

Design Sprint started with a couple of initiatives inside Google, one of them was from Google Ventures. On Google Ventures, at first the Design Sprints were five days, because GV worked as a consultant to startups, so for them to have the context, they spent more time on the understanding phase, and that’s why they naturally had to spend more time on the Sprint.

That has changed as many people have adapted Design Sprint’s down to three or four days. There a few strategies from Jake Knapp’s book that I might personally not use. For instance, usually I don’t have a super vote, and everyone has the same level of vote for HMWs and crazy 8s. There are a few other changes, of course, but I think those two are good examples.

💡 What is a workshop and how is it different from a Design Sprint?

Workshops are usually one day or two days, and you don’t have all the six phases you have in a Design Sprint. Instead, on a workshop you can have isolated exercises borrowed from Sprint methodology.

I’d say you’ll need at least three days to run a full Design Sprint with all six phases. Remember Design Sprint is a framework that has six phases, and if you’re not doing all six, then there’s no reason to call it a Design Sprint.

✌️ What’s the ideal group of people?

It is ideal to have a very diverse group of people. By all means, include people who are in different roles, for example, designers, researchers, engineers, product managers, and marketing and business people.

It’s important to ensure you have different perspectives, backgrounds, genders, education, and background, which will bring diverse and more interesting insights during the Design Sprint.

Try to create a group as diverse as possible, and you’ll get interesting new ideas and have fruitful conversations.

👾 How do we find the right Design Sprint challenge?

To have a good challenge you have to plan the Design Sprint ahead of time, typically at least a month ahead. I say that because you’ll need to talk with the main stakeholders to determine how the Sprint could help the project in question and then frame it as a challenge. Here are a few examples:

  • If you’re starting a new project, and you want to design a vision for it within three years, that’s a good challenge.
  • If you want to have different ideas for a specific problem, let’s say “design three ideas for feature “X” to land by the second quarter of 2019”, that’s another good challenge.

So it’s good that you always have this framework where you think about the challenge. You can think about what the challenge can be or when the challenge can be accomplished.

It’s important to have a very good sense of the timeline, for example, if you’d like to keep the challenge in the Q2 2019–2020, then add that to your design challenge status.

You can also debate the challenge during the Design Sprint itself. For instance, one of the first exercises can talk about the design challenge in the Design Sprint to ensure that everybody aligns with the direction before you start your Design Sprint.

☁️ How do we include the design system in the Design Sprint?

The design system can be part of the Design Sprint, that’s totally fine. You can include it in any phase. If you want to make sure that every single idea created during the Design Sprint follows a design system, you need to ensure that at some point during the learning phase you have a lightning talk where somebody will present the design system and show a few examples of how the design system can be used.

With that, team members will know when and how to use the design system, and then on the prototyping phase, for example, you can use the design system by sharing libraries and Sketch files or Figma files for people to create the prototypes during the Design Sprint.

🚧 How do get people excited to join a Design Sprint?

It’s important to make sure that everybody agrees on having a Design Sprint. Once everyone agrees on that, you have to block time in their calendars. Think about whether you have three days, look on calendars, and see what days might work for everyone.

Block those days on everyone’s calendars, talk with the team members to ensure that they will be available during those three days. It’s important to frame that everyone needs to be present for the whole three or four days.

If someone really cannot be there during the three days or for a certain period of time, you can have a personal talk with the team member to clarify why it’s important to be present. They say that if you lose one hour of a Design Sprint, you lose 10 days of work, or maybe a month of product development. People don’t want to lose that.

But if that person really needs to be out, I would say it’s okay if it’s during a specific phase where she’s already integrated and has experience with that phase. For example, if she is a researcher, and she’ll need to be out during the lightning talks. Maybe it’s okay because she has already run a lot of research and knows what the learning phase will be, or maybe a person will be out for only one or two hours. You can advise them of the best time to be out for one or two hours.

🤝‍How do we get a buy-ins from stakeholders?

To get a buy-in to run a Design Sprint, you usually have to make sure that people are on the same page with you much ahead of time — one month, two months, whatever time you need. Make sure that people first understand what a Design Sprint is. Maybe you can show your stakeholders a couple of examples. There are a few videos on YouTube that you can share or perhaps gift them with Jake Knapp’s book.

As soon as they understand what a Design Sprint is, you want to ensure that they understand the reason you running the Design Sprint by clarifying the challenge and working together with them on the challenge. It’s important that your stakeholders feel included in this process, and it’s essential to get management buy-in too.

If you’re part of the planning, you can create a plan and ask them to comply. No big recipes here, you just need time to do a lot of talking and show a couple of examples. And be sure to convey that the Design Sprint is not about using three or four days of everybody’s time. It’s about saving a lot of people’s time because if you don’t have a sprint, they’ll probably need hundreds of meetings to get to the same page. Ensure everyone understands that the Design Sprint is a very powerful tool for decision making and ideation.

💍 How do we get people engaged?

To keep people engaged, you’ll need to ensure that you have dynamics that are a good mix of talking and making and also a good mix of show and tell, so they don’t get bored. It’s also important to timebox everything correctly — all the time.

A good option is to use a timer. I like the time timer, but if you don’t want to buy anything, you can use the Google Timer and display on your computer screen so people know exactly when they have to start.

In the Design Sprint, you’ll need to be a good facilitator to catch people’s attention. For that, I would say to try to run first a workshop or brainstorm, or even run some organized meeting where you’re actually taking care of the agenda. It’s important to make sure people are engaged and liking it.

After you have experience with something like that, you’ll feel more comfortable running a Design Sprint, because the Design Sprint will be a longer commitment, and for sure, much harder to facilitate.

⏱️ When is the right time to do a Design Sprint?

The Design Sprint can be used in a couple of different points in product development. For example, when you’re creating a new product, and you don’t have a very clear direction, a Design Sprint could be a great idea.

Another option, it’s when you have new people on the team, and you need them to get onboarded and understand the product direction. This can be another point at which you might want to do a Design Sprint.

You also want to make sure that people are on the same page and to build alignment on something. If you check the Design Sprint kit, there are a bunch of other examples.

🧘 What are the activities we can use to energize the group?

I think sometimes what helps people to get energized again is a meditation break or any other kind of mindfulness exercise. Make sure that you have snacks and water in the Design Sprint space. It’s important to keep things very accessible during the Design Sprint.

You can also have a shorter day and start the Design Sprint later or earlier as compared to the business hours. It’s an interesting exercise to avoid working eight hours during the Design Sprint.

The team can work six hours during the Design Sprint, and then use the remaining work hours to work on something else outside the Design Sprint challenge. They can do whatever they need to do, and they won’t spend eight hours in the same room. I think that helps a lot too.

✈️ What happens between the end of the Sprint and in-market roll-out?

You have to rank the ideas that came out of the Sprint, check what worked better during the validation phase. Pick the ones that you want to continue to work on with your stakeholders.

Usually you can evolve your designs and to test them until you launch, or until you have a better version or MVP of your app, feature or project. Basically, you will continue to evolve in the direction that you or the group thought was more promising.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁮󠁩󠁲󠁿 What’s the validation step?

On the validation phase, you need to have someone who tests your prototypes with real users. And that’s basically a usability testing and testing on a constant basis. You need users willing to test your product/solution, and you’ll also need someone who will run those studies with them.

There are multiple ways to do that. One simple solution is the intercepts. For intercepts, you can actually go to the streets and start talking with people, especially those that are waiting for something such as a coffee, for example. You can take advantage of the waiting time and talk with them while they wait to present your prototypes and ask a few questions.

That’s one way to run the validation phase, but of course, there are multiple other methodologies. You can find them on the Design Sprint tool kit.

🏖 Does remote Design Sprint work?

I tried a couple of times with one or a few team members participating remotely. I would not recommend running a remote Design Sprint. I don’t think there is a good way to do it yet.

I tried using Google Jamboard, which you can use with your iPad or tablet, and that makes it a little easier, but still, honestly, very hard. So I would not recommend running remote Design Sprint. Would love to hear if someone had a positive experience to share.

🖍️ Examples of wireframing and prototype products in the market

There are a couple of products you can use. Some of them are easy to use, and they’ll create basic interactive prototypes. And then there are the more complex ones.

The basic ones will just give you different screens that you’re going to tap into a clickable area that will take you to the screen. That’s pretty much how Sketch and Figma will create a prototype.

For the more complex ones, you will need a bit more programming knowledge to create them, in these category there’s Origami and Framer.

And then there are those in the middle, which will take you some time to learn, but are also very interactive and can create a very complex prototype, in this category my preferred is Principle.

🧜🏽‍♀️ Who can be a Design Sprint Master?

The Design Sprint Master can be anyone that has been trained and understands how to run a Design Sprint. Usually, we say it’s better if you were part of a Design Sprint first, at least a couple of them, you know, five or six, get trained, and then run your own. A Design Sprint Master can be anyone, marketing people, UX, PMs, and engineers.

🙌 When is the decision matrix most useful? How does it play out?

The Decision Matrix is useful when you need to make a decision on what is easier to implement and has a high impact. If you want to have a Decision Matrix, you’ll need the engineering team to be present during the Design Sprint so they can make an informed call on the level of implementation difficulty.

📈 How do we present results?

First, I have a few slides to introduce what a Sprint is and how was the process. I also collect all outcomes from the exercises, for instance, the How Might We’s, Crazy 8’s, and solution sketches and add them to the deck. I also add a section with final prototypes, results from validation phase, including quotes from users.

📅 What do we do after the Design Sprint?

Usually, after the Design Sprint, you compile all the results including final prototypes and the validation. The team should make a presentation to the stakeholders and ensure that they understand where the team landed and why.

Then you’ll discuss when you want to implement the solutions or when or what specific solution the team wants to implement. It’s important that the stakeholders and team members understand how the solutions are aligned with everything discussed during the Design Sprint.

🤑 How do we measure Design Sprint success?

There are few ways to do it. One example is to run a survey before and after the Sprint. You can ask how team members feel about the product direction on a likert scale and then compare if their perceptions have changed after the Sprint.

👏 Clap once, 👏👏 clap twice, clap however many times you want.

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PM learnings in my journey at Silicon Valley

Thaisa Fernandes⚡

Written by

Program Manager at Twitter Platform Solutions. Scrum Master & PMP Certified. Product Manager at Lunna App ♀️ she/her 💪 immigrant 🌱 vegan

Product Management 101

PM learnings in my journey at Silicon Valley

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