Why would you bring in an outside facilitator to do a Design Sprint?

When you do a design sprint, you want somebody that knows what they’re doing, can control a group, has a lot of confidence in the process, and can manage people. The design sprint will not work if you don’t feel that you are in good hands.
~ Heidi, CMO

Deciding to do a design sprint is an intense process that requires full commitment from the team taking part in it. Without 100% engagement from everyone involved, you won’t get the productivity intended. Companies with design sprint capabilities already may undertake to facilitate the sprint themselves, BUT as our clients have told us, outside facilitators can add value in ways you wouldn’t necessarily have thought about if you usually run design sprints on your own.

Here are some of the top reasons our clients have told us why they prefer hiring facilitators to help plan, manage, and run their design sprints rather than doing it themselves:

‘The facilitators immediately went off to start organizing everything and it really was a massive weight off my shoulders from a planning perspective to really get the experience off the ground and allow me to focus on the problem statement at hand. ’ ~ Tyler, VP of Digital Experience
  1. Being able to focus. Often in design sprints, there’s a lot happening, a lot of information being shared across the team, discussions happening between different functions, and it’s important to ensure all of this gets captured so it’s not lost in the future. To be able to just participate and focus on the challenge at hand while not simultaneously worrying about managing the sprint logistics like planning, note-taking, recruiting, and managing testers and experts is one of the top reasons our clients prefer hiring outside consultants.
I have my own biases that I need to have someone challenge me from time to time to get out of, and I think The facilitators did a good job of [saying and enforcing the idea of] “preconceived notions, leave those at the door’ ~ Jethro, Data Scientist

2. Not falling into the same patterns. Our clients have often expressed to us that they often fall back on natural biases that trap and inhibit them from thinking outside the box. A great design sprint facilitator brings in fresh outside-in perspectives, new research, and different points of view that may not have otherwise been considered. Additionally, because an outsider facilitator is unbiased and has no skin in the final solution, they are able to challenge the team and push them outside their comfort zones to truly think differently about game-changing solutions. Since we’ve worked with a number of companies from small startups (Beauty, Healthcare and Wellness, Investment) to global enterprises (Hi-Tech, Utilities, Oil and Gas, Automotive, and Telecom) and teams across various verticals (IT, Finance, Supply Chain, and HR) our team can bring analogous inspiration and ideas to help inspire creativity.

‘I felt like it was the first time my voice was really heard in a room full of executives. And that was really awesome, and empowering.’ ~ Tasha, Customer Service

3. Maintaining equity and eliminating the hierarchy. One of the most important aspects of a design sprint is that every voice is heard, regardless of title or role. A key part of a facilitator’s job is to remove the hierarchy at the beginning of a sprint and the natural tendency to defer to the most senior person in the room so that everyone feels comfortable sharing and speaking up. Design sprints are tough and exhausting enough and can be really intimidating for some. This is especially the case when there are strong personalities or executives on the team that either advertently or inadvertently create an unequal atmosphere. It’s in these situations that our clients say having an outsider in the room is helpful for maintaining team dynamics and equity in the discussions so no voice, idea, or opinion is missed.

The added value of hiring an outside facilitator isn’t just limited to during the sprint, but post-sprint as well. Coming out of a sprint there are so many ideas generated and information shared that without proper structure for organizing and analyzing, all of it can get lost pretty quickly as soon as the sprint ends. An outside team that’s focused on driving outcomes and ensuring client success can actually help provide frameworks for evaluating which ideas generated during the sprint are most viable and more importantly, help put a roadmap in place to execute on those ideas.

So the next time you’re considering running a design sprint or looking to get the most value out of the intensive process, consider hiring an outside facilitator. You might just get A LOT more out of it than you “bargained” for!


The SIX is a strategy and experience innovation consultancy. We help people design better businesses, processes, products, services, and experiences.

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