Jake Knapp’s sprint concept and his book “Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in just Five Days” are used in teams all over the world and has become a staple in agile process management. The idea is to explore new ideas, prototype, and get new things off the ground in a limited time and without making huge investments.
We take a look at Jake Knapp’s famous sprint concept and take you through his design of a sprint week, from planning to prototyping and testing.
Ready for a sprint? 🙂
What is a sprint?
A sprint is a limited time investment in which you test out new ideas with your team.
“Working together with our startups in a sprint, we shortcut the endless-debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week”, writes Knapp in the preface of his book. “Instead of waiting to launch a minimal product to understand if an idea is any good, our companies get clear data from a realistic prototype.”
Knapp’s Sprint theory has been applied by investment firms, startups, and tech giants such as Google or Facebook (Knapp is a design partner at Google Ventures).
How to do a sprint?
Knapp outlined his book for sprints that take one week. Knapp’s outline of a sprint is different from a Scrum sprint in which a bigger task is broken down into smaller, more manageable ones that are executed in a given timeframe.
His book is a DIY guide designed to take you through a sprint week, from Monday to Friday.
“On Monday, you’ll map out the problem and pick an important place to focus. On Tuesday, you’ll sketch competing solutions on paper. On Wednesday, you’ll make difficult decisions and turn your ideas into a testable hypothesis. On Thursday, you’ll hammer out a realistic prototype. And on Friday you’ll test it with real live humans.”
Knapp’s sprint idea involves the following processes:
Sprint Planning Phase
- Starting with a big problem
- Deciding roles and responsibilities
- Agreeing on a time and space (when and where to do the sprint)
- find a long-term goal (The idea of the sprint is to test if that goal is something you should pursue further)
- Define the problem
- Interview experts to get a clear sense of what you are dealing with
- Decide on a focus for your sprint. What is the outcome you expect on Friday afternoon?
- Look for old ideas: What has worked in the past and what can you build on?
- Sketch out some first ideas and solutions
- Choose the best solutions
- If you have competing ideas, try to keep them alive
- Make a storyboard for a first prototype
- Don’t build a product, build the facade of a product
- Find the right tools for prototyping, divide tasks, and start 🙂
- Get insights from 5 potential customers on your prototype
- Find patterns and plan the next step
Why it’s important to go fast
A sprint gives you an opportunity to fast-forward, test ideas in your team and first customers. And all of this before making enormous time commitments.
Here is Knapp’s idea of a sprint again:
“The sprint gives our startups a superpower: They can fast-forward into the future to see their finished product and customer reactions, before making any expensive commitments. When a risky idea succeeds in a sprint, the payoff is fantastic. But it’s the failures that, while painful, provide the greatest return on investment.”
The benefit of a sprint is that you don’t waste time. There is no time to second-guessing, to get uninspired, to lose focus. In an article published on Medium, Knapp explains why it is so important to go fast:
“Speed keeps you authentic. If you’ve got a weird, opinionated, crazy, possibly-stupid-possibly-great plan, and you take a long time to think it through, revise it, and make it perfect, you water down and wash out the goodness.”
How to do a Scrum Sprint?
At Usersnap we are not only using sprints to come up and test new ideas, but also to streamline our work processes. We are doing Scrum Sprints. A scrum sprint – we found – gives us a focus, a limited time-frame, and something to celebrate, which is why we are doing sprints regularly for various tasks.
Wikipedia defines scrum (and scrum sprints) as follows:
“Scrum is an agile framework for managing work with an emphasis on software development. It is designed for teams of three to nine developers who break their work into actions that can be completed within timeboxed iterations, called sprints (typically two-weeks) and track progress and re-plan in 15-minute stand-up meetings, called daily scrums.”
Here are some of our tips for doing a scrum sprint:
Define clear goals
Before starting a sprint, take a minute to outline clear goals you have in mind. You might want to use S.M.A.R.T. goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Setting realistic goals for a short time period such as a sprint is crucial for a successful experience.
Each part of the team — the development team, product owner, and scrum master — has specific daily roles and responsibilities. While each member of the development team can select the tasks of highest need and completes them as quickly as possible, the scrum master maximizes the team’s productivity by removing roadblocks and protecting the team from external distractions.
Keep everyone updated
Even though everyone might have their own things to work on, make sure everyone is updated. Even when we are doing a sprint, we are still doing a daily standup meeting with our dev team. It is a chance for everyone to ask for help or offer suggestion on what other people are doing.
Depending on the duration of the sprint, it might make sense to have a mid-sprint update on where you are standing on goals and progress.
After the Sprint
Sit together with your team and think about what went well and what didn’t. Were responsibilities assigned according to strengths and skill sets?
Celebrating your work is important. We make sure to take some time to sit together and celebrate our successes either in small teams in our office or at our company parties and get-togethers.
Wrapping it up.
Sprints offer a limited timeframe to work on new ideas or to finish tasks in a given time.
“Sprints offer a path to solve big problems, test new ideas, get more done, and do it faster”, writes Knapp. Instead of spending endless hours overthinking your options, sprints help you work productively, more focused, and in the end happier. A sprint – in Knapp’s sense – might help you save effort and money in the long run. “You don’t want to spend months or years on a hunch that turns out to be wrong,” Knapp says. With a planning sprint, “you’ll find out very fast.”
If you are doing sprints regularly – and not just to test out new ideas – it can help you to reach your goals in a way that is more fun and satisfying for everyone. In a world, where distractions are coming at us from every possible angle and app, a sprint, in general, might be what we need to stay focused and happy.