A book brief
The Sprint Zoetrope
To test your ideas in just 5 days with the Sprint process by Jake Knapp in his book “The Sprint Book”.
Aug 5 ·15min read
This article is a brief collection of points, I found important for designers to keep in mind ( includes crux of process & Jake’s ideas)
What is sprint?
Sprintis a process to solve big problems, test new ideas and get more things done faster and better; thoroughly researched and prototyped, ready to be tested for feedback from the real-world users.
Any idea requires time, effort, capital & most importantly proper execution to make it a usable prototype. We think about questions like “What’s the most important place to focus your effort and how do we start?”, “What will it look like in real life?”, “ How do you know that solution is right?”, etc. It has been seen brainstorming fails in these cases and never reaches to a point.
Sprint allows us to efficiently identify critical flaws just within 5 days of work, before making any expensive commitments.
Summary of activities to be done in 5 Days:-
Monday:-Mapping of the problem and picking important places to focus.
Tuesday:-Sketching competing solutions on paper.
Wednesday:-Taking decisions on different solutions and weaving a storyboard
Thursday:-Making a realistic prototype.
Friday:-Testing with real users.
Setting the stage
Any sprint is more successful when the stakes are high, time is less and when you are just stuck in a project.
Sprint solves for the surface where humans and your products interact. When you are designing any product you take into consideration that humans will interact with it.
The size of the team should be 7 or less.The team must include the trouble maker and a facilitator, trouble maker is a smart person who has strong contrary opinions and the facilitator is the one who manages time, conversations and the overall process.
Sprints require high energy and focus. Thus sprint starts at 10 am (sufficient time in the morning to do daily tasks) & ends at 5 pm (To ensure there is sufficient time left in the day) for 5 days of the week (Mon — Fri). 5 days allow enough time to sharpen, focus & cut out excess debate.
Never use phones during the sprint and have sufficient whiteboards as it allows you to express your ideas better.
In sprint monday is the most important day as it helps you decide the route for the rest of the week. Starting from the end will allow you to make a long term goal & form a map of the challenge. Then talk to the experts in the second half of the day and at the end of the day pick a target you can solve in a week.
-Starting in the end-
When you start working on a challenge you should not try solving it right away, you should slow down, share what you know and prioritize.
Step 1- Set a long term goal
Start with the thought “Why are we doing this project ?”. The discussion could take from 30 seconds to 30 minutes, but the satisfaction of a clear goal is important.
After you have settled on a long-term goal, write it at the top of the whiteboard. It’ll help move everybody in the same direction during the sprint.
Step 2- List the sprint questions
Try to understand what challenges you will be facing and start listing questions for the sprint on a second whiteboard. Some examples in the book are:-
- “What questions do we want to answer in the sprint?”
- To meet our long term goal, what has to be true?
- Imagine we travel into the future and our project failed. What might have caused that?
An important part of this exercise is rephrasing assumptions and obstacles into questions .
Turning these political problems into questions makes them easier to track- and easier to answer with sketches, prototypes, and tests.You can end up from 2 to 12 questions depending upon the challenge in a design sprint.
The map will show customers moving through your service. No matter how complicated the business challenge is it can be mapped with few words and few arrows.
Each map is customer-centric, with a list of key factors on the left. The map is like a story with a starting, middle and an end.
Making a map
- List the actors on the left:- Actors are different kinds of customers.
- Write the ending on the right.
- Words and arrows in between
- Your map should have from 5–15 steps. If it has more than 20 steps map will be too complicated.
- Take feedback from your teammates “Does this map looks right?”.
You should update and correct the maps throughout the day as you discuss the problem.
-Ask the Experts-
In a company different people have expertise in a different field, just talking to CEO won’t help you much understanding every aspect. Information is distributed asymmetrically across the entire team in a company. During the sprint, you’ve got to gather it and make sense of it, asking the experts is the easiest and fastest way to do that.
Asking the experts always yields surprising insights and you also make people invested in the outcome, thus you gain their support.
Asking the experts
The script for doing the same:-
- Introduce the sprint.
- Give them a tour of long term goals and sprint questions and map.
- Ask them to tell you everything about the challenge in hand.
- Ask them to retell what they think you already know. You should ask them where you’ve got it wrong or if they can find anything on the map that is incomplete. Use the phrases “Tell me more about that”, “why” etc…
- Add sprint questions, change the map. Your experts will tell you what you didn’t know in the morning.
How Might We
When you’re talking to experts each person has different opinions and thoughts. Thus to utilize insights optimally, each person should write his or her thought on sticky notes in the form of a question beginning from the words “ How might we…..?”
This will provide the same format to all sticky notes and it will be possible to read, understand, and evaluate them easily.
- Have a deck of sticky notes.
- When you hear something interesting, convert it quickly into a question and write it in HMW format.
- Peel off the note and set it aside.
Each HMW note captures a problem and converts it into opportunity. Each HMW questions takes insight and converts it into an opportunity this allows inspiring multiple solutions.
Organize the HMW notes
When you will end with the HMW method your wall will look something like this.
You need to organize the notes into groups with similar themes, these themes will emerge automatically. Just pick those notes up which sound similar and you will find a similar theme.
Sometimes you will end with a different/misc theme of notes, they end up to be most times the best ones.
Vote on HMW notes
To prioritize the notes, you’ll use dot voting:-
- Give two large dot stickers to each person.
- Give 4 large dots to the decider cause their opinion matters the most.
- Ask everyone to review the goal and sprint questions and then vote in silence on HMW notes.
- It’s Ok to vote for your note or to vote twice for the same note.
Now take HMW notes with multiple votes, remove them from the wall, and find a place to stick them on your map. Most notes will correspond with a specific step in the story.
-Choosing a Target-
Your final task on Monday is to choose a target for your sprint.
“Who is the most important customer, & what’s the critical moment of customer experience?”
Throughout the week you need to focus on a target. This target is mostly chosen by the decider or you can straw poll to help him if he/she is confused.
Once you’ve selected a target, take a look back at your sprint questions, one or more should line up with the target.
…………………………………End of the day……………………………………
On Tuesday you’ll have to come up with solutions. The day starts with a review of existing ideas. In the second half, each person will sketch different Ideas.
-Remix & Improve-
Begin Tuesday by searching for existing ideas you can use to sketch in the second half. Use a method called lighting demos. Your team will take turns giving 3 min tours of their favorite solutions (similar existing products): from different sources. This exercise is about finding inspiration & not about copying from competitors.
Sometimes looking into your organization will lead to a better search for a solution. You can also look at old abandon projects or those that are in progress.
Step-1 Lightning demos
- Make a list- Everyone in the team has to come up with a list of products or services to review for inspiring solutions. Everything you review should contain something good you can learn from. Narrow it down to 2–3 best ideas.
- Give three-minute demos.
3. Capture big Ideas as you go- Continuously take notes of the best ideas. Start by “What’s the big idea here that might be useful ?”. Then make a quick drawing of that inspiring component, write a simple headline above it and note the inspiration beneath it.
The four-step sketch
Step 1- Notes
Notes are the greatest hits from the past 24hrs of the sprint. Copy down the long term goal. Look at the map, the HMW notes questions, notes from lighting demos, write down anything that looks useful, also lookup for reference material on the laptop and remember to consider old projects, they’re often the strongest solutions of all.
Step 2- Ideas
Jot down rough ideas, filling the sheet of paper with doodles, sample headlines, diagrams, etc anything that gives form to your thoughts. Ideas can look messy just start scratching on paper.
Step 3- Crazy 8s
Take your strongest idea and sketch rapidly 8 variations in eight minutes. Crazy 8s allow you to focus on the good ideas. Keep going until you can’t think of any more variations, then look back at your ideas sheet, choose a new idea, and start riffing on it instead.
Step 4- Solution Sketch
Each team member will sketch a three-panel storyboard drawn on sticky notes showing what your customers see as they interact with your product. Make it self-explanatory and keep it anonymous. People in the room should understand what you have to stay by just viewing your solutions.
Words matter in your solution as it explains your ideas it makes it real and good. Do remember to give your Idea a catchy title.
…………………………………End of the day……………………………………
On Wednesday morning you will critique each solution, and decide which ones have best chance of achieving your long term goal and you will you will take you sketch and weave them into a storyboard.
Hang all the solutions sketch on the wall using masking tape.
Step- 2 Heat map
- Don’t talk
- Look at the solution sketch
- Put dot sticker beside the best parts you like
- Put 3–4 dots on the most exciting idea.
- If you have concern write it down on a sticky note and put it below the sketch.
- Repeat for others.
Step- 3 Speed critique
- Gather around a solution sketch.
- Set a timer for 3 min and the facilitator narrates the sketch.
- He calls out great ideas and the team also gives their input in case the facilitator misses some points.
- A person next to the facilitator takes constant notes on sticky notes.
- The creator of the sketch remains silent until the end and explains his idea.
- Move on to the next sketch.
Step- 4 Straw poll
- Give everyone one vote (one big dot).
- Remind everyone of the long-term goal & sprint questions.
- Set timer for 10 min and each person privately writes down his or her choice.
- Place the vote on the sketch.
- Each person briefly explains his or her vote.
You’ll take the winning sketches and string them together into a storyboard to spot problems and points of confusion before the prototype is built.
Step 1- Draw a grid
Step 2- Choose an opening scene
How do customers find out your company exists? Where are they and what are they doing just before they use your product?
For example- Start with Web search, app store, facebook or twitter feed, etc as your opening scene.
Step 3- Fill out the storyboard
Start building storyboard one frame at a time, use sticky notes from winning ideas and stick em on the whiteboard. There might be some instances where you might find a gap that’s not illustrated, don’t fill it unless it’s critical to test your ideas. Avoid inventing a new solution on the spot. Work with what you have, also keep the story 15 min or less. Don’t write together and include sufficient details for easy understanding.
…………………………………End of the day……………………………………
On Thurday you’ll adopt a method called “Fake it” to convert your storyboard into prototype.
In this method, you will make a prototype that is just as good as the real thing. The prototypes (Facade) are easier to build than the complete product.
The longer you spend working on something the more attached you’ll become, and you’ll take the negative feedback from the customers on your heart and start blaming the users.
Step 1- Have a prototyping mindset
- “Remember you can prototype anything.”
- Prototypes are disposable, you should never prototype anything that you are not willing to throw away. The right prototype won’t even work so there is no point spending weeks or months in the prototyping phase.
- Build just enough so that you can get your questions answered, you do not need a fully functional product.
- The prototype must look real, this allows the user to give genuine feedback. If you show them some kind of paper of low fidelity prototype they will go into the feedback phase. We want real-life insights from the users and not feedback on the product.
Step 2- Achieve the Goldilock quality
The quality that’s not too high not too low.
Step 1- Picking the right tools
Prototypes have to be simple you should try building it on keynote. You can use keynote, powerpoint presentation, etc for digital prototypes.
You can use 3D printer for physical prototypes or you can also make a brochure for the product and see how people react to it.
Step 2- Divide and conquer
- 2 or more people should be makers , responsible to build the prototype, these are designers or engineers.
- A sticher should be assigned for collecting components from the makers and combining them in a seamless fashion in a workable thing.
- A writer is very important as words matter in any prototype.
- An asset collector, the person who collects all the icons, photos, etc for the makers.
- Finally, an interviewer, who will use the finished prototype to conduct tomorrow’s test and will work on the interview script for tomorrow.
Start stitching it together and conducting trial runs.
…………………………………End of the day……………………………………
On Firday you’ll interview customers and learn by how they react to your prototype. At the end of the day, you’ll know how far you have to go, and you’ll know what are the future steps in the project.
Seeing a target user react to your new ideas before making any expensive commitment is important. Thus ask people to interact with target users to get insights about how they interact with the product.
The interviewer will talk to five of our target customers, one at a time. He’ll let each one of them try to complete a task with the prototype and ask him few questions to understand what they’re thinking as they interact with our prototype. Meanwhile, in another room, the rest of the team is watching the live video stream of the interview and making notes of customers’ reactions.
Five is a magic number
85% of problems are solved just after five people, as the number of findings quickly reach diminishing results.
The five-act interview
Act 1:- Friendly Welcome
Say something like this:-
“Thanks for coming in today! We’re always trying to improve our product, and getting your honest feedback is a really important part of that.”
Act 2:- Context questions
Start slowly by asking the customer about his life, interests, and activities. These will help you build rapport, as well as give you context for understanding and interpreting your customer’s reactions and responses.
Act 3:- Introduce the prototype
First of all, it’s important to say :
“ Something may not work quite right yet — if you run into something that’s not working, I’ll let you know.”
We built the prototype to Goldilocks’ quality, the user will forget this isn’t real once he starts using it. However, introducing it this way encourages them to give blunt feedback.
“Remind the customer that you’re testing the prototype — not him.”
The line “I didn’t design this” is important, because it will be easier for the user to be honest if they don’t think the interviewer is emotionally invested in the ideas.
Remind the users to think aloud: thinking aloud makes the interview format especially powerful. Seeing where customers struggle and where they succeed with your prototype is useful — but hearing their thoughts as they go is invaluable.
Act 4:- Tasks and nudges
You want to watch the user figure out the prototype on their own. Start simply from the play store where the user sees the app and installs it and tries it out. Make the tasks open-ended as they make the interviews interesting. Ask user questions like:-
“What is this? What is it for?”
“What do you think of that?”
“What do you expect that will do.”….. etc
Act 5:- Quick debrief
It can be tough to pick out the most important reactions, successes, and failures. When you ask debriefing questions, your users can help you examine everything you heard.
Ask questions like:-
“How does this product compare to what you know?”
“What did you like about the product? What did you dislike?”
“If you had three magic wishes to improve this product, what would they be?”
Make a script of all the questions you want to ask during the interview. Please take a look at the Interviewer sections after this chapter.
Watch together, learn together
If they don’t see interviews live there will a credibility problem as the team didn’t witness the test, they are stuck trusting the interviewer’s process and results. It’s like the difference between someone watching a movie yourself and someone narrating it to you.
The conclusions will be better as a group since you have several brains working on it together.
Take interview notes as a group
Ask your team to write down insights, if they hear something interesting on a sticky note. Keep in mind if the user struggles with the prototype it’s your problem, not theirs .
At the end of each interview, collect the notes and stick them to the whiteboard. After all five interviews, you will be able to spot the pattern.
Back to future
On Monday you listed sprint questions, now we’ve run tests and identified patterns in results, it’s time to look back at those sprint questions. these questions will help you decide which patterns are most important. You will be able to learn from your failures at such early stages of your project.
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What I’ve learned
I have read “The Sprint Book” multiple times and each time it provides me with some piece of information that I’d wish I knew before. I wanted to compile all such information and tactics mentioned in the book into this article so that people can understand what a beautiful book it is.
Even if you have read this article, I would recommend you to read the book once. There’s a lot you can explore in the book and relate those to your life.