At Twyla we learned the hard way and I’m sharing this post in hopes that you may avoid such pain.

Twyla Team Working on How Might We
Twyla Team Working on How Might We

Executive Buy In

Executive buy in, meaning the CEO for small-medium companies or the project/department head for larger organizations, is critical to success. Workshops without executive buy in are doomed from the start, no matter how well defined or creative the process.

If the executive doesn’t believe there is a problem or they aren’t properly educated on the process, then stop and correct this before proceeding any further.

I highly recommend that your executive play the decider role or personally select a delegate to decide on her/his behalf. It is important that the decider be decisive. I know this sounds obvious, but nonetheless I recommend you discuss this ahead of time. Set the expectation that they will have to make hard decisions on the spot.

Attendees Selection

In an effort to embrace transparency and inclusion, we opened up our first sprint to the entire company. This was a huge mistake. People filtered in and out. As a result, there was a general lack of consistency and cohesion. Exercise thoughtful selection when deciding who to invite to the sprint. If you want to be inclusive, host an end of day recap, where anybody can stop by for a progress update.

Limit yourself to a total of 7 attendees. Select attendees who represent the most important perspectives as dictated by the problem you are solving. It is always helpful to have a few designers. Ensure that the designers are core members of the sprint and not just brought in on day 4 to prototype a solution the rest of the team designed. Consider all business units and stakeholders that have relevant insights or will be directly impacted by the solution you are testing.

If you are having trouble cutting your list down to 7 or less, consider moving some of your attendees to an “experts” list. You can bring them in on Monday afternoon to provide extra context from their point of view.

Reserve the Time

If your sprint attendees don’t block off their calendars, there is slim to no chance that you will be able to execute all the exercises with precision and attention to detail. You will have less than ideal results.

If someone can’t block the time then consider rescheduling. If they continue to have scheduling issues, then they are not really bought into the process.

Learn the Process and Educate the Team

If you are facilitating or are just invested in seeing the workshop be as successful as possible, do your homework! Read the Sprint book. Read sprint stories. Attend a couple of meetups. Learn the process, inside out.

Now that you know the process well, take the time to educate your team. They will be more effective if they are educated. You may even decide to give them some homework so that Day 1 runs more smoothly.

Locate materials online or make your own to print out and share with the team. You can even share the sprint video that Google Ventures produced. I like to start off Day 1 with this video and an overview of the process just to map out the journey we are embarking on.

Set a Schedule and Stick to It

Create a schedule. You can use the checklist and timelines provided at the back of the Sprint book as a guide. Feel free to make any modifications that your team may require. Make sure to include plenty of break times when people can check email, use the restroom, stretch their legs, etc.

Type up your schedule. Share it with the entire team first thing on Day 1. Encourage them to respect the schedule, to ensure that you move with precision and accuracy through the exercises.

I’ll be covering these topics and more as I tell the Twyla Design Sprint story at the first Austin Design Sprint meetup on July 12 6:30 @ Capital Factory.

Hope to see you there!

If you are thinking of hosting your own design sprint and need help or are just curious, I look forward to hearing from you.