Lessons Learned From a First Time Design Sprint Facilitator

Last week I co-facilitated a Google Design Sprint for my colleagues, a process for solving big problems and testing new ideas in just one week. We did the Design Sprint version 2.0, which is the 4-day process instead of 5.

The main activities each day of the Design Sprint v2.0

Top 8 key learnings

The problem we were trying to solve was related to risk assessment in the public sector, so I learned a lot about the domain. I also learned a lot about the Design Sprint process.

One of the advantages of facilitating a Design Sprint is that you can get insight into new and exciting problem domains. But keep your focus on facilititating and don’t be tempted to participate.

These learnings are based on only one time as a facilitator (I have previously been a participant). However, I do find it useful to jot down my own key takeaways while they are still fresh from a beginner’s mind. I also think most of these lessons can be valuable when facilitating other processes.

1. Trust the process

If your domain is complicated or complex (as the public sector can be), parts of the sprint (e.g. the map and the story board) can feel hard and frustrating, and you might dubt that you are on the right track. The timeboxed activities and voting activities are designed to help you progress in a meaningful way.

2. Work together alone

Brainstorming doesn’t work. That’s why we let the participants think and be creative alone in silence. We then mix, match and build on each other’s (anonymous) ideas.

3. Block your calendar and turn off your phone

Blocking everyone’s calendar for a week allows for full focus, efficiency and effectiveness. No multitasking, no context switching and no digital devices (exept when building the prototype).

4. Collaborate with a designer

Design thinking, UX and UI competence is crucial, both in a Design Sprint and in product- and service design in general. The designer(s) should participate throughout the entire sprint.

5. Prepare and adjust

Define the challenge and desired deliverables in the beginning and be open for adjustments as new insight is unveiled during the sprint. Chosing the target customer and target event defines the rest of the sprint and is imporatant to get right. If your organization is large or your domain is complicated or complex, do some research, like system mapping, in advance. Try to get an idea on where the root cause or main problems might be. It might also affect who should participate in the sprint.

6. Choose the participants and experts carefully

The end result depends on the group composition. Make sure you have a cross-functional team with a broad mix of skills that represents the different expertices and interests needed to solve the problem. Make sure some of the participants also have ownership and resources to take the result further. You also have to put some effort into who you invite for the Ask the Experts activity on Monday.

7. Facilitating is hard and rewarding

A Design Sprint requires a lot of planning, organizing and preconditions to be met. The facilitator needs to be well prepared and organized around the activities and the schedule, while at the same time keeping energy and mood high throughout the days.

8. Know when design sprint is not the solution

Design Sprint is not the solution to everything.

As with all new and shiny processes, you need to know when a Design Sprint is not the solution.

Walking through the solution sketches.

Questions

These are some of the questions I still have:

  • How and when do you detect whether your solution should be bought or build? How do you avoid making a prototype of a product that already exists in the marked and is not part of your core domain?
  • If the sprint team is cross-functional, autonomous and self-organized, do you need the Decider role? (The Decider is the person making the last call on all decisions.)

Sources

Other than working together with an experienced Design Sprint facilitator, these were my main sources of information and inspiration when preparing for the sprint:

What is your experience with Design Sprints?

Regardless if you have more or less experience with design sprints, I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Lessons Learned From a First Time Design Sprint Facilitator

5 thoughts on “Lessons Learned From a First Time Design Sprint Facilitator

  1. Marianne Røsby says:

    Hei Marianne,
    Takk for deling. Vi kjørte en design sprint i prosjektet for et par år siden. Det jeg husker jeg likte best var «work together alone» og en sjelden sjanse til å sitte i fred og ro og la tankene og idéene flyte. Det er sjelden anledning til det i hverdagen som er full av møter. La oss ta den kaffen snart da😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Sammen alene” er et fantastisk konsept. Ekstroverte tenker også bedre alene har jeg lest. Jeg elsker stillheten, men lurer på om den kan virke trykkende for noen? Noen ønsker lav bakgrunnsmusikk, mens andre ikke klarer å konsentrere seg da. Dette (og mye annet) kan vi snakke mer om over en kaffe! 🙂

      Like

  2. Mariel sletten says:

    Så kult at du har vært co-fasilitator 😀 Jeg synes det med kjøping eller bygging er veldig spennende i sprintsammenheng, har du gjort deg noen tanker om dette er noe man bør ha aktivt fokus på i løpet av sprinten? I såfall, hvordan?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ja, jeg slenger ut spørsmålene i håp om at noen med mer erfaring vil svare 🙂

      Mine foreløpige tanker er at man bør gjøre seg noen refleksjoner om kjøping eller bygging i forkant av sprinten. Spesielt vi som jobber i det offentlige, som skal kjøpe hyllevare når det allerede finnes produkter som dekker behovet vårt. Samtidig savner jeg noen avsjekk i løpet av sprinten på om behovet vi prøver å løse er unikt eller om det allerede er løst. Her tenker jeg også det er nyttig å ha med seg en erfaren designer (enten til å fasilitere, eller som deltager), som kan si noe om hvor høy grad av “fidelity” (gjengivelse) prototypen bør ha. Hvis behovet dekkes av hyllevare, så bør ikke prototypen din være en realistisk versjon av klikkbare skjermbilder som sprintteamet har designet. Prototypen bør da kanskje helle være noen grove skisser av ideene, prosessen og konseptene.

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  3. Hi Marianne,

    In response to your questions :

    The whole concept of design thinking is to be collaborative and democratic decision making. It is user led and not leader led hence it is important that you bring people from all aspects of functions in a room to ideate and select ideas. There is a design method to help select ideas for ex. Importance and Difficulty matrix and Visualise your Vote method or Body voting which help you decide or select in a democratic way which is influence free.

    The outcome of the ideation and selection workshop can then be presented to the board or budget holders to sell the idea or ideas selected and get funding from them.

    Hope my response helps. You can read a bit more about Design thinking methods which will give you more clarity.

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