Why Design Sprints fail

Why Design Sprints fail

Developed by Google Ventures, a Design Sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers or stakeholders. While Design Sprints are great for validating ideas and solving big challenges, they don’t always work. Getting people to clear their schedules for a week is already challenging, even more so when that week results in wasted efforts.

When Design Sprints begin to fail there are usually clear indicators. Without proper facilitation and structure, arguments erupt, participation declines, users become disinterested and management support starts decreasing.

The problem comes from thinking that this methodology is a one-size-fits-all solution to any problem. When having this mindset, there is a high probability the sprint will not provide the value you are expecting.

Below are four reasons why Design Sprints fail and how you can avoid them:

  1. You don’t actually need a Design Sprint

Not every problem is suitable for a Design Sprint, so ensure the problem that you’re bringing to the sprint is worth solving. In instances where the scope of the problem is either too broad or too narrow, or if there’s already a well-defined product that is ready for development, a Design Sprint would not be the right tool. Before running a sprint ask whether the problem is big enough for it to need a week or if it’s just a project that needs a shorter workshop.

  1. There’s not enough variety of stakeholders in the room

A successful Design Sprint needs a variety of people within the organisation in the room in order to produce the best results. The key is to get all voices: operational, finance, strategic, customer, executive and objective views to help solve problems from as many angles as possible, and unlock creativity. This requires the business to take several of their employees off existing projects and get them working together for an entire week. Even though this seems onerous, it’s crucial for the process to be successful, and a Design Sprint should not take place if you cannot get the right people in the room.

  1. You’re solving the wrong problem

Or you’re trying to solve multiple disparate problems at the same time. Ensure everyone in the room knows what problem to focus on and that they don’t get side-tracked by other issues during the process. Design Sprints are quick and demanding, and the key to success is to have a well-prepared team with a clearly defined problem statement. Even though five days seem long, it goes by quickly when people get distracted.

  1. You’re losing track of the Design Sprint process

Design Sprints follow a simple framework. This is easy to accomplish in the week, but the team must be focused and have experience working in a fast-paced environment. Keeping a Design Sprint on time and on target is crucial, and should be administered by an experienced facilitator who has the authority and assertiveness to ensure the sprint stays on track. The key is to trust in the process and stick to the exercises.

Design Sprints are not just for design. It’s a tool for solving problems and validating solutions, and can be used in a wide range of contexts. But it’s not a silver bullet and won’t solve every problem. Most of these risks can be managed by an experienced facilitator who knows how to ensure the right problem is addressed, a balance of viewpoints is present, and the Design Sprint process is followed correctly.

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