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Design Sprint: Facilitator tips for Wednesday.

This is the third part of a 5-part instalment of Design Sprint tips, focussing on decision day. The pivotal part of the sprint week. We decide which solution to go for, refine it, and create a storyboard with just enough detail to enable the prototype to get built.

This is it, we are reaching the crux of the Sprint week problem. Wednesday is a great time, as a group, to acknowledge all the work we have done to arrive at this point and reflect on the volume of ideas the team has created in such a short space of time! The day is split in two. In the morning we note, vote and prioritise our best solutions. We decide the best test strategy for our concept, (all-in-one or rumble?). In the afternoon it’s time to break out the whiteboard pens and piece together our test narrative in the form of a storyboard.

The art gallery is one of the most exciting parts of the whole sprint week. Up until this point, everyone has been sketching out their ideas in private. Now is the chance to let them shine. Nerves will be high, “do they like my idea or not?”

Chatterbox

Keep the momentum going by time-boxing each solution sketch. How much time depends on how many sketches you have, but even saying 3 minutes per sketch with 10 people costs you half an hour. Be strict, set a time and call it out upfront. Prepare people in advance that they may be moved on if you go over time. It’s only fair that each sketch gets its equal time in the limelight.

Let it breathe

Use the whole room and get the solutions spread out. It encourages people to move around and gives everyone a chance to get in close and see the sketches in detail. Try and avoid that awkwardness where the shy one in the group can’t get in past the crowds to see any of the sketches!

Voting

We’ve talked a lot about our favourite equipment in our tips for Design Sprints. But you shouldn’t underestimate the finer details. For instance there are plenty of sticky dots to choose from when browsing Amazon. But the old adage is true: “You get what you pay for”.

Good sticky dots

Our favourite sticky dot-brand is Chromalabel. They are not the cheapest, but they are a delightful product to use. They come packaged in a lovely little cardboard dispenser box. Inside is a reel of sticky dots making it super easy to distribute voting dots amongst the team.

Bad sticky dots

With the amount of stationery we buy, we experimented with cheaper brands and it was quite annoying for the Sprint participants. They each had a sheet of dots, but the damn things were near impossible to peel off as during production the die cutter had gone through to the back of the sheet! Every time the team tried to peel off a dot the backing paper came with it! We ended up with a dot sheet full of holes and a Sprint team full of annoyance. An exercise that should have taken minutes was much, much longer!

The moral of the story is don’t go cheap, avoid risk and stick to the reassurance of quality Sprint stationary (the same goes for sticky notes!)

Deciding

Luckily if things get tough the Sprint framework has a built-in safety net in the guise of ‘The Decider’. Always lean on them when democracy fails or when a discussion is going round and round. Here’s a couple more things to consider to help speed over those decision bumps…

No new ideas

This tip can’t be overstated. Don’t entertain new ideas at this point. It undermines the whole process and can easily let the loud ones of the group spout their previously quashed ideas, or shout about brand new ones. It’s easy to see how this can happen though. You’ve just had a new wave of inspiration from the art gallery and new ideas come flooding in. “Why didn’t I think of that?” or “We could just tweak that idea and do this” are comments we often hear. We recommend taking a minute to address this at the start of Wednesday. Let everyone know the three simple words: no new ideas.

Solve the biggest problem

This is probably the most important tip for the entire Design Sprint week. The biggest problem is solved by designing and testing the most critical part of the overall concept. You won’t be able to design and build it all in one day, you need to whittle down the options. To do this, ask the team this question, “What are you most uncertain about?”. There is absolutely no point in testing stuff you know you’ll be able to execute well. This might be based on past experience, design patterns, or other data insight. Right now we need to consider what we don’t know, what are the biggest questions still hanging over us?

This is a great time to revisit the Sprint questions, which should still be up on a wall somewhere. These were our central concerns on day one and they can help us make the right decisions, right now.

Keeping on track

Wednesday is the pivotal part of the Sprint. It’s smack bang in the middle, it’s a mini peak we’re about to summit on our journey to understanding the product through the user’s lens. We’re taking all our learning, discovery, and ideas, and channeling them into a solution, a product, a test.

Fear

Now, this convergence of time and energy can feel much bigger than it actually is, especially if this is the first Sprint for the team, or if it has taken a lot of effort to secure time and money to make it happen. The key thing to remember is, don’t be afraid to fail, because in a Sprint you can’t fail. You either succeed or learn. Any of the ideas the team has come up with will command valuable insight during the user test. You can help take the pressure off the team by reiterating this - and telling them to, “trust the process that has been used thousands of times by some of the biggest, most successful companies in the world”.

‘Tech’ solutions

Now, this doesn’t always happen but we’ve noticed an increasing propensity for this scenario to occur dependant on the type of skill backgrounds in the Sprint team. We’re talking about a temptation to figure out certain technical requirements when the storyboarding begins. This usually pops up because suddenly the product solution starts to become tangible. There is then a sudden realisation from people with technical expertise that they may have to actually deliver this thing.

Remember, if you’ve managed to get a good mix of skill sets in the room, including technically minded people, then their solutions will be more likely to be able to be built anyway; they should be technically possible.

But don’t worry, it’s so simple to avoid digressing on the minutiae of technical deliverables. Now is the time to remind the group that, “We’ll be able to figure this out in good time, unfortunately, the schedule doesn’t allow us to define every detail right now. The most important thing is we are testing the most critical part of our solution.” The best insight comes after execution. The rest can be figured out later.

Take a look at our tips for:

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