Sprint by Jake Knapp

Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days

Parker Klein ✌️
5 min readApr 27, 2022


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Focus on the product or service interaction with the customer first. You can work backward to figure out the underlying systems or technology

The ideal size for a sprint is seven people or fewer

You want people who have deep expertise and are excited about the challenge

The Team

The Decider: whoever makes decisions for the team

Finance expert

Marketing expert

Customer expert

Tech/logistics expert

Design expert

Bring the troublemaker or the person who has strong, contrary opinions. Troublemakers see problems differently from everyone else

The Facilitator is responsible for managing time, conversations, and the overall process. She needs to be confident leading a meeting, including summarizing discussions and telling people it’s time to stop talking and move on

The Sprint schedule is from 10 am to 5 pm with an hour-long lunch in the middle and two short breaks

No laptops, phones, or iPads allowed

Monday begins with Start at the End

Layout the basics: your long-term goal and the difficult questions that must be answered

If you could jump ahead to the end of your sprint, what questions would be answered? If you went six months or a year further into the future, what would have improved about your business as a result of this project?

“Why are we doing this project? Where do we want to be six months, a year, or even five years from now?”

Write down your long-term goal to keep everyone moving in the same direction

Now imagine you’ve gone forward in time one year, and your project was a disaster. What caused it to fail? How did your goal go wrong?

Beneath every goal is a dangerous assumption. The longer those assumptions remain unexamined, the greater the risk. Ferret out assumptions, turn them into questions, and find some answers

The map you’ll create on Monday will show customers moving through your service or product

Create a simple and straightforward map that will include the major steps for customers to move from beginning to completion

A map is customer-centric, with a list of key actors on the left. Each map is a story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is composed of nothing more than words, arrows, and a few boxes

You draft your map on Monday morning once you’ve written down your long term goal and sprint questions

  1. List the actors on the left
  2. Write the ending on the right
  3. Words and arrows in between

This should take between 30–60 minutes

For the rest of the day, you’ll interview the experts in the team to gather more information about the problem space

Nobody knows everything, not even the CEO. Information is distributed asymmetrically across the team and across the company

Useful questions for the decider: What will make this project a success? What’s our unique advantage or opportunity? What’s the biggest risk?

Whoever talks to your customers the most will have crucial insights

Allow half an hour for each conversation with an expert

  1. Introduce the sprint
  2. Review the long term goal, sprint questions, and map for two minutes
  3. Ask them to tell you everything they know about the challenge
  4. Ask questions
  5. Fix the whiteboards
  6. How might we…?

Then organize your “how might we” notes on a wall. Group them by themes. Then everyone gets two votes on the most important problems to solve

The final task on Monday is to choose a target for your sprint. Who is the most important customer, and what’s the critical moment of that customer’s experience?

The Decider needs to choose one target customer and one target event on the map

Review other good products for ideas and inspiration

You may divide up the problem, but everyone should now sketch a solution for the problem

Sketching is the fastest and easiest way to transform abstract ideas into concrete solutions which can be evaluated by the rest of the team

Individuals working alone generate better solutions than groups brainstorming out loud

When working on big projects, find the first small action needed to make progress and go from there

Tuesday: Notes -> Ideas -> Crazy 8’s -> Sketch

On Wednesday: decide which solution has the best chance of achieving your long-term goal and then create a storyboard or a step-by-step plan for your prototype

Read all the solutions -> critique all the solutions -> decide

Use your storyboard to imagine your finished prototype, so you can spot problems and points of confusion before the prototype is built

Thursday: turn your storyboard into a realistic prototype

Reactions are solid gold, feedback is worth pennies on the dollar

The prototype mindset: 1. You can prototype anything. 2. Prototypes are disposable. 3. Build just enough to learn, but no more. 4. The prototype must appear real

Prototype steps: 1. Pick the right tools. 2. Divide and conquer. 3. Stitch it together. 4. Do a trial run

Prototype roles: 2 makers, 1 stitcher, 1 writer, 1 asset collector, 1 interviewer

End the day with a trial run

Don’t analyze potential, take it for what it is

Run 5 1-hour interviews on Friday

If you don’t know why a product or service isn’t working, it’s hard to fix it

The Five-Act Interview

  1. A friendly welcome
  2. General, open-ended context questions about the customer
  3. Introduction to the prototype
  4. Detailed tasks to get the customer to react to the prototype
  5. A quick debrief to capture the customer’s overarching thoughts and impressions

Don’t ask multiple-choice or “yes/no” questions

Do ask “Five Ws and One H” questions

Instead of jumping right into solutions, take your time to map out the problem and agree on an initial target. Start slowly so you can go fast

Instead of getting all the details right before testing your solution, create a façade

Instead of guessing and hoping you’re on the right track, test your prototype with target customers and get their honest reactions

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Parker Klein ✌️

Former @Google @Qualcomm @PizzaNova. Building Twos: write, remember & share *things* (www.TwosApp.com?code=baller)