One of the great things about workshops and design sprints is that they save time. You can ideate, test, make decisions, and generally get things done in anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Now, some people might claim you can walk right into a sprint cold, but we’ve found that in reality, a decent amount of prep work is required if you want things to go smoothly.
As sprint facilitators, it is vitally important to do the right prep-work, so that you have a decent grasp on the problem the sprint team is facing, who it is that you’re working with, and what your goals are. This not only ensures that the sprint runs well technically, it ensures that you as a facilitator are able to feel confident and set the group off to an energizing start.
So, how do we prepare? Keep reading for our tips, and a free downloadable Design Sprint Brief and Checklist PDF.
Get to Know Stakeholders
When running Design Sprints, it is important to make sure that everyone is on the same page about the broader objective. Here at Neuromagic we always work with the major stakeholders (usually the person who hired us directly, who is in charge of the project) before the Sprint and set a “Mother Challenge”. This “Mother Challenge” is basically the broader theme of the workshop and will guide all of our activities. For example, a mother challenge might be:
How might we increase communication between departments?
And that mother challenge can then be further worked out into a specific problem to tackle during Day 1 of the Sprint, something along the lines of:
How might we standardize KPI’s in different departments, to increase productivity in cross-departmental collaboration.
It is also important to make sure you understand why you are running a sprint, from the perspective of everyone involved— sometimes you can find that different team members have different understandings of why they are running a design sprint. This can be problematic, especially when it comes to setting expectations for outcomes. If everyone is expecting a different outcome, some team members may be left unsatisfied. It is best to sort this out before the sprint begins, as time will fly and there will be little room for major discussion and adjustment. We recommend having a quick phone call with each stakeholder, or exchanging e-mails, to get to know them better and come to consensus on expectations.
You can even send a simple sheet for your major stakeholders (again, the person who decided to run the sprint— this could also be you) to fill out that includes major factors, like expected outcomes and deliverables, team members, dates, locations, and sprint challenge. Check out our template at the bottom of this blog post!
Practice, Practice, Practice (especially for remote sprints)
This tip is most important when preparing for remote Sprints, which have become more and more common with the advent of tools like Miro and Mural. Remote sprints are complex and will absolutely require practice for first-time facilitators and participants as well.
Make sure to set aside a session before the Design Sprint begins to teach participants the ins-and-outs of your chosen video conferencing and whiteboard applications. How can they follow along with you on the whiteboard? How will voting work? Will they be using breakout rooms on their video calls? Who will control the breakout rooms?
We also suggest having facilitators do a trial run of every remote activity at least once, to ensure that no technical difficulties get in the way during the sprint.
For in-person sprints, it is not always necessary to run through every single activity. However, if it is your first time facilitating or there is a new exercise, try running through it with your co-facilitators first to find any points of contention or things that might need to be more carefully explained to participants.
The last and usually easiest step is getting all of the supplies you need prepared for your sprint day! We tend to order supplies in bulk online. We also print our canvases out at ACCEA (sort of like a high quality Japanese Kinko’s), about a week in advance, in case of any complications.
Remote Sprint Supplies
- Double monitors for video call and whiteboard (iPad Pro + Laptop has been our go to)
- Snacks and coffee
In-Person Sprint Supplies
- Black markers
- Post-it’s 50mmx50mm, Box of 20 x 2
- Post-it’s 75mmx126mm, Box of 10 x 2
- Blu-tack Poster Putty, 2 Packs
- A4 (or letter) Paper 5 sheets per participant + Extras
- Scotch Tape, 1 roll
- Timer Clock
- Digital camera (for documentation)
- Snacks, water, coffee, tea etc.
The Design Sprint Pre-worksheet
If you’d like a little more structure as you set up for your Design Sprint, we’ve created a Design Sprint Pre-worksheet for you to use to get your stakeholders on the same page, and make sure you’re feeling confident on Sprint Day 1.
The PDF includes:
- Design Sprint Pre-Worksheet: send to stakeholders and get everyone on the same page, keep this sheet handy throughout the sprint so you stay focused on your goals
- Participant List: send this out to participants and have them fill it out, or fill it out on your own, and keep it as a reference
- Room Requirements: for you to send to stakeholders or keep in mind as you search for rooms, if you do not have a sprint space of your own
- Materials to Bring: check off each item as you prep
Good luck, and Happy Sprinting!
Download the Design Sprint Pre-Worksheet!
Originally from Philadelphia, PA, USA, Elena is passionate about storytelling and designing for equity. Her current focus is on content strategy and creation, from research, to writing and photography.