Design Sprint Day 1

Let's deep-dive into what happens on the first day of a Design Sprint. On Mondays, we understand the problem.

I want to give credit to the creators of the Design Sprint method, Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz from Google Ventures who developed this Design Thinking method in the mid 2010s. Their process is the starting point from which all variations of Design Sprints come from, and I work with their framework to create Design Sprints that are customized to suit client needs.

Design Sprints don’t have to follow the exact Google Ventures format to be successful. There are shorter sprints that can be done over the course of a couple days or even 6 hours, or ways to extend the time period over a couple of weeks if necessary to accommodate team schedules. The kind of Sprint that we will recommend really depends on the type of problem to solve. Smaller, better defined problems that are still stumpers can be good candidates for a shortened Design Sprint, while more complex issues can be better suited to the full process.

Before getting into alternatives, it’s always good to understand the basics. Let’s talk about the canonical way to follow the process.

Monday - Understand the Problem

The first day of the Design Sprint is so important! During this critical day of the Sprint, the team will articulate the problem and then find a specific focus area for the rest of the Sprint.

Part 1: Define Long-Term Goals

Even if you think you have a shared understanding of the problem, the team needs to make sure they’re not working on assumptions. To better articulate expectations, try asking your team the following questions:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • Where do we want to be at the end of this project?
  • What does success look like for this, long term?

As a group, you need to have a shared understanding of the outcomes you hope to achieve with some sense of how they’ll be measured. The first activity is about defining those goals.

Workshop Activity: Define Goals and Vote

  • Everyone writes down their long-term goals on post-it notes (virtual, of course).
  • You create an affinity diagram of the goals by grouping like goals.
  • The team each cast 2 votes for the 2 goals they feel are most important.
  • Discuss the highest voted goal.

Part 2: Identify Sprint Questions

After you define the long-term goal in the previous activity, you need to identify questions in support of your long-term goal. Enter the Sprint Questions. In Sprint, Jake Knapp and co suggest thinking about this as “To meet our long-term goals, what has to be true?,” or “What could get in the way of our success?”

Workshop Activity: Identify Sprint Questions

  • Team members capture their questions.
  • Questions are organized into themes.
  • Team members name the overarching themes.

Part 3: Map the Problem

After you’ve articulated your goals and identified your Sprint questions, you can start to make a simple, high-level map. The map is a way to capture a story, not diagram the details. The story starts with a person, type of user, or role, and ends with the goal. The middle of the map includes the broad strokes for what steps happen between the people and their desired goal, which helps to focus and frame the problem around a customer need. We do this so that we have high-level scaffolding for the problem which we can hang the rest of our work off of as we continue with Day 1.

Workshop Activity: Create the Map

  • Identify the primary actors affected by the problem, and add them to the beginning of the map.
  • Identify the common goal of these actors. Put these goals at the end of the map.
  • Fill in the high-level steps in between these people and the solution.

Part 4: Ask the Experts

Now that you’ve got a map of the problem to help everyone contextualize the story you’re telling, it’s time to start filling in the blanks. That’s when you bring in the experts (who might actually be already in the Sprint). In this workshop activity, the team asks questions and everyone individually takes notes on comments from the experts that they find interesting and relevant to the problem using the “How Might We” format on their own digital post-its. The “How Might We” format is used to try to turn statements into opportunities and standardize the way we take notes so that our statements are in the same format for the next meeting. The experts are also invited to comment on and fix anything in the map that doesn’t look right to them. You’ll want to ask things like “What will make this project a success?” “What’s our biggest risk?” and “What is our unique advantage?” (Sprint, p. 70).

Workshop Activity: Expert Interview

  • Experts review the notes taken by the team in the previous activities and answer questions from the team.
  • All other members take notes using the “How Might We” format, 1 note per post-it.

Part 5: How Might We

After reviewing all the notes you have taken in the Ask the Expert interviews, you categorize your “How Might We” statements and reformat any other notes so that they are all phrased as opportunities.

The team can now vote on the most useful or important “How Might We” notes that you just categorized. Next, the team can see the group’s priorities around the opportunities in the How Might We notes, and map these opportunities back onto the map.

Workshop Activity: How Might We Notes

  • Convert notes to “How Might We” format.
  • Create groups out of the “How Might We” to find areas of common opportunity. Remember to label these groups.
  • Move the highest voted “How Might We” statements and place them onto the map.

Part 6: Pick a Target

At this point, all the previous activities come together, and an area of focus should become more clear to the group. The Decider needs to pick one customer or user to focus on, and decide on the most important moment in that customer’s experience.

This will set the area of focus for the remainder of the sprint.

Workshop Activity: Selecting the Target

  • Pick one customer and one target moment on the map.
  • Review Sprint Questions and select those that best align with the target.

And That's Day 1!

And that’s a wrap on Day 1. No offense to the other days, but I think that Monday is the most important day (and the hardest). The work done on Monday defines everything about where the team will go from here and how a solution will develop for the rest of the Sprint. Monday is a lot! Take care of yourselves on Day 1, get lots of breaks and snacks. You’ll need to save some creative energy for the remainder of the week.