Teams

How to assemble your design sprint team

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Design sprints are reshaping how the most progressive companies build ideas into functioning products. Within a sprint, you’ll pick a design challenge, sketch up solutions, vote on the best conceived solution, build a functional prototype based on your solution, and then test your prototype on live customers.

Did I mention this all happens within 5 days?

In this article, we’re going to focus on 2 topics that’ll help you prepare a team that can run a successful design sprint:

  1. Generating support from your company to conduct a sprint
  2. Putting the right sprint team together to execute

Engage your company

Once you’ve decided that a design sprint will benefit your company, your next step is getting others around you committed. These people may include co-founders, board members, designers, engineers, and marketers. They may be peers, managers, or junior members.

Depending on outside pressure and your team’s progress, getting everyone to agree to a design sprint may be the easiest decision you’ve made since opening your doors. Or it may take some finessing—in which case we’ve laid out 3 options for rallying everyone together.

“Design sprints are reshaping how we build ideas into functioning products.”

Good news: We’ve already tested and validated each of these options time and again. We’ve also experimented with others, but none had as much success.

Option 1: Distribute copies of the Sprint book and pitch it

Ask the team to read the book. Then break out Keynote, organize your compelling pitch about the benefits of a design sprint, and call a meeting.

Image courtesy New Haircut.

Image courtesy New Haircut.

Note: For the ultra lazies, you can prompt your team to skip the book and review this Sprint Checklist (opens PDF).

Pros:

  • If they share your passion, they should be at least mildly stoked to give it a shot
  • This is about as low-risk/low-cost as it gets

Cons:

  • People are not to be trusted + people are lazy = people may not read the book or take you seriously
  • Your pitch bombs, people throw stuff at you, and you’re never asked to participate in another sales call
sprint-team-4

Option 2: Run a one-day sprint

With this approach you’ll run a hyper-condensed version of the design sprint in one business day.

If we pretend the typical business day is a true 8 hours, you’ll leave one hour first thing in the morning for the team to take care of their administrative duties and one hour for lunch. Use the other 6 hours to work through the sprint.

Pros:

  • This highly collaborative environment is contagious. Expect it to boost confidence and team dynamics.
  • 6 hours should be easy to sell

Cons:

  • The abbreviated schedule could backfire if it’s not laser-focused. Consider bringing in some outside help (see option 3).

Option 3: Get some outside help

The other options assume you have the team and chops to create your own momentum. However, some of you reading this may be a company of one. And some of you may simply not be up to the task, or you don’t have the time to rouse the team.

In these instances, consider bringing in some outsiders who have the experience required to get others excited and engaged.

sprint-team-2

Pros:

  • Outsiders with vetted experience tend to carry more influence
  • Pros who’ve run many sprints will be able to better speak to the benefits (and challenges)—and certainly they’ll have more examples to share

Cons:

  • Some companies prefer to keep everything locked down and in-house
  • Options will be slim for finding good, experienced, trustworthy vendors

In the end, the goal is for you to get your existing team on board with a running a 5-day design sprint. Consider your team dynamics, roadmap, and pressures so you can get them over that hump with as little friction as possible. And if you discover a better option, please let us know.

“Sprint teams need a good mix of personalities, skills, and disciplines.”

Your sprint team

Once your company is enacted to run a sprint, the next order of business is selecting and rallying your sprint team. You’ll want to assemble a balanced team that can fully commit to the process. But you’ll also need a good mix of personalities, skills, and disciplines.

Google Ventures recommends a team no larger than 7. We agree—otherwise, you go from managing a sprint to managing an unruly mob.

sprint-team-1

Below are the 5 roles we’ve found to be absolutely necessary in running a quality sprint.

Product chief, aka the shot-caller
This is the person with the most sway (and largest voting stickers). Though it’s often the case, this won’t always be the boss/owner/VP of product. In some cases we’ve seen heads of customer service, lead engineers, and sales execs charter this role. What’s most important is that this person has the most tangible exposure to the problem you’re trying to solve.

Customer rep
If your product chief doesn’t have immersive, daily interaction with your customers, be sure to recruit this role onto your sprint team. They’ll often be the ones to cut through the sales and marketing hype you’ve tried ad nauseam, while pinpointing the precise issues your customers face.

Designer
In another article we talked about creating Goldilocks-quality prototypes. Having a designer involved in the sprint process is important because they can quickly make things look good enough.

“Sprint teams shouldn’t have more than 7 people.”

Engineer
While you don’t need to be a technology company to run a sprint, the majority of prototypes you’ll be testing will require some kind of engineering talent. The engineer on the team may produce software, hardware, or some other real-world product prototype.

Marketing
The words used to describe and market your product as well as the words within the product itself are just as important as the form and function of your prototype. Make sure someone is present who’s blessed with the ability to effectively wordsmith.

Bonus: Facilitator
There are a lot of moving parts to a design sprint. Don’t forget that you have to book conference rooms, organize lunch, capture notes, set timers, interview customers, and keep the group on-task. Designate one person on your sprint team as the facilitator—their primary role is to ensure the team keeps up with the aggressive pace of a 5-day sprint.

Summary

Design sprints require a commitment from your team. Once they’re in, you’ll want to mobilize a team that’s willing to clear their schedules and charge through the sprint. And hopefully you now have the structure to accomplish those 2 objectives.

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Author

Jay Melone, CEO and Principal at New Haircut
Jay Melone is the CEO and Principal at New Haircut, a software design firm. They combine design thinking, design sprints, and full-stack software development to offer digital innovation-as-a-service to their client companies. They offer Duco to teams looking to prepare for their own upcoming sprints. Watch his DesignTalks on how to prepare for your first sprint and get executives on board with sprints.

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