An outside facilitator, especially an experienced expert, is often the critical ingredient needed to position your Design Sprint for excellence. Jake did a great job of codifying the process in enough detail that anybody inside your organization will have what they need to run a Sprint. Because of this detail, it is not a surprise that many organizations decide to use an internal facilitator. This typically leads to less than ideal results. I recommend you find a skilled external facilitator to guide you, especially on your first Sprint.
Unbiased & Objective
A skilled facilitator will provide a fresh perspective that is unbiased and objective. An outsider will not be aware of your status quo, will not have heard all of the usual internal debates, and will not be encumbered by your office politics. This vantage point will allow them to ask critical questions and hold everyone accountable to the truth, sometimes helping you embrace the harsher realities. They will ask genuine “dumb questions” that help achieve shared understanding across all Sprint participants.
Focus & Confidence
A professional facilitator understands the importance of deferring to participants as the experts in solving the problem, while they are the confident expert in the process for finding that solution. Internal facilitators typically struggle with relinquishing their role as an expert in solving the problem. This makes is difficult if not impossible for them to focus on their role as an expert in the process.
Internal facilitators typically struggle with relinquishing their role as an expert in solving the problem.
Since most internal facilitators are stakeholders in disguise their input is valuable and often critical to Sprint success. If they are a facilitating it is hard for them contribute and still remain unbiased. Sometimes this can lead to negative tensions that drag down the rest of the Sprint team. An external facilitator can remain focused on facilitating without other distractions.
“Without Douglas we would have kept introducing new ideas and tweaking things which would have prevented any real learning” — Boundless sprint participant
Periodically throughout a Sprint, the team will begin to doubt and question if things are on track, and sometimes even begin to wonder if they are wasting their time. An experienced facilitator will assure the team, as they go, that the process is working as intended, they are right on track, and they are doing great. Professional facilitators are naturally enthusiastic and their enthusiasm empowers the team.
Expertise and Situational Awareness
An expert in the Sprint process provides confident and fluid guidance through each exercise and activity, ensuring you stay on track and on time. They will encourage you to rephrase your statements as questions, nudge you to be more pessimistic or critical of goal, and so on.
When prototyping, it is important to target the appropriate level of detail and do so in a way that is easy to test. Having an expert who can coach your designers towards what has worked best in the past will help ensure that your interviews go as smoothly as possible and generate the most learnings.
Jake and the GV Design Sprint team actively work with GV portfolio companies and mentor Design Sprint facilitators. Relying on an authority who, has been trained directly by the GV team, who have run hundreds of Sprints, will ensure your Sprint runs smoothly and allow you to focus on the rapid results you seek.
Planning & Preparation
Facilitators who have previous experience running Design Sprints ensure a more thorough planning process. They will provide you counsel on proper attendee selection. They will assist you in educating your participant so they are properly primed for the activities and level of participation required. Their perspective and expertise during planning will give you peace of mind that you aren’t about to waste 5 days of valuable resources.
Other Relevant Experience
In addition to expertise in the Design Sprint process, a Design Sprint facilitator will certainly have other experience and skills that will enhance their perspective and efficacy. Throughout my career as a CTO, I’ve lead Product teams and am experienced in software development, product design, and business strategy.
When selecting a facilitator, study their background to see what additional skill and perspective they might be able to contribute to your thinking.
Often, a professional facilitator has studied other co-creation techniques and practices. This knowledge and experience can be helpful if you get stuck or the problems you are facing require adjustments to the exercises outlined in the book. When selecting a facilitator, study their background to see what additional skill and perspective they might be able to contribute to your thinking.
Documentation & Synthesis
It is critical to document and archive all assets generated from a Sprint. These are relics provide a treasure trove of future inspiration and innovation potential. A dedicated facilitator is constantly photographing the team, capturing conversations on whiteboards, and organizing all at the end of the Sprint. Without this attention to detail, much of your Sprint content will be lost as memories fade.
While it is entirely possible to run your own Design Sprint, if you want to increase your likelihood of success, consider hiring an expert. Design Sprints require a substantial time commitment for participants and a non-trivial amount of upfront planning and preparation to organize a Sprint. Smart operators choose to hire a professional to protect their investment and ensure their Sprint is executed flawlessly by someone who has done it before.
Voltage Control specializes in Design Sprints and we facilitate Sprints in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas. Please email Douglas at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in having him facilitate your Sprint, coach your team on how to run an effective Sprint, or are curious to learn more about how a Sprint might help your company or product.