How Home Depot has built a culture of innovation using design sprints

4 min read
Richard Banfield
  •  Nov 30, 2018
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This is the second in a three-part series of articles on how Home Depot uses design sprints. To find out more about how the company—and other design-forward large organizations—uses design sprints, check out our latest book on DesignBetter.Co, Enterprise Design Sprints. Read the first article here.

Many simply see the design sprint as a way to get unstuck: a process to move projects along and get answers faster. When facilitated correctly though, the design sprint can actually bring more voices to the table in a way that fosters innovation.

While writing Enterprise Design Sprints, in which Home Depot is prominently featured, to UX manager Brooke Creef, about how the design sprint is helping fuel the culture of innovation at Home Depot.

Seek alignment

If a sprint creates a meaningful product innovation that’s never built into the roadmap, what was the point? At Home Depot, the design team works closely with the product team to ensure that sprints are aligned with product roadmaps, ensuring outputs make it into production.

Creef refers to this as alignment over negotiation: “I’ve found that at some organizations, it is really more of a negotiation,” she said “It was like we’ll do this, and you’ll do this. But we really want to work together to align ourselves. At that point, there’s a larger ownership.”

With that larger ownership comes more investment from teams whose inputs might not have been considered otherwise, which leads to a greater appreciation across the board for the process, as well as a diversity of opinion reflected in outputs.

Distribute authority

The larger a design sprint gets—especially the more people and parts involved—the more important it is that people feel empowered to take action and make decisions. At Home Depot, Creef said there’s a mindful effort to give the sprint facilitators leeway to make decisions on their own.

Of course, giving people authority to make decisions makes it even more crucial to be completely clear and communicative with the overall purpose of the sprint and—going back to alignment—how it ties in directly with business objectives.

“We found that the success of this has been hinged upon our vision and purpose,” she said. “We actually have a mission statement that we kind of make sure we tie back to, and really help with our messaging there.”

Socialize the sprint

One of the keys to Home Depot’s success with design sprints has been the buy-in and socialization they receive from senior leadership at the company. After their first design sprint, in early 2017, the team presented its case study to Home Depot’s Vice President of Product, stressing the value of the sprint framework in pushing the company’s innovation efforts.

“He absolutely loved it, and from there it really just continued to grow like wildfire, because he continued to help educate his directors, and then they educated their teams,” Creef said. “Then along with each case study that shared out to executive leadership, it just continued to go in a feedback loop.”

The popularity of the projects has translated to the involvement of multiple teams. Design starts conversations with different teams early to understand research and business inputs and staffs the sprints accordingly, training those new—including from product and business teams—to sprint methodology.

With the design sprint, more voices are brought to the table, fueling innovation while reducing bias. Ultimately, the broader participation means more valued outputs. Read more about design sprints in Enterprise Design Sprints on DesignBetter.Co.

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