We hear it all the time: Projects are stuck. Teams are bogged down. Organizations just can’t move forward on a nagging issue. Leaders want to jump-start change.
Design sprints can accelerate progress, focus on critical decisions, and get teams unstuck. Design sprints work because the right people are free of distractions and can focus on answering a key question in a limited amount of time. Sprints originally started in agile software development. Today, the practice is popular among both start-ups and established companies for prototyping and testing new products. In the book Design Sprints, authors Richard Banfield, C. Todd Lombardo, and Trace Wax say sprints are a framework “to maximize the chances of making something that people want.” So in product design, companies prototype and test products or features early in the design process to get feedback and recalibrate faster and before they spend too much money on the wrong thing.
Internal project sprints tackle internal issues, so an internal sprint might design a way for teams to collaborate or develop an activation plan for strategic priorities.
And internal project sprints don’t test a product with consumers at the end of the week. They might test new employee metrics with a team of employees or validate and test a new process with the teams that execute that process.
As the name implies, getting to a key decision faster is a significant benefit of a sprint. But Sprint author John Zeratsky said in Harvard Business Review that a sprint isn’t just about speed. “It’s also about momentum, focus, and confidence.”
Focus is important. Putting people in a room and giving them a deadline to answer a key question is motivating. They make quicker decisions, and they don’t get bogged down in details.
Sprints require an investment in time and money; the payoff is that sprints accelerate projects and project teams.
Cynthia Owens is a Senior Consultant at XPLANE.