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Scaling design sprints: Spreading the gospel

4 min read
Jay Melone  •  Dec 18, 2018
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In the first article in this series, we recounted the recent success design sprints while comparing them to tools like agile.

In the second article, we covered the two biggest challenges faced with early design sprints and how to overcome them.

In this final article, we’ll share ideas and tips for growing the practice of design sprints through evangelizing.

Evangelize like hell

If you manage to get out of the starting gate with some of the ideas shared in the previous articles, it’s time to shift gears to get more people in the company enrolled in design sprints.

The great news is that, since you’ve already demonstrated success, you should have a much broader, more interested audience that would like in on that success.

From one of New Haircut’s public workshops where they instruct and educate tools like design sprints

Prerequisites before proceeding include:

  • You’ve incorporated some flavor of problem framing/prioritization
  • There’s a core team that works well together to routinely complete sprints successfully
  • You’ve captured pics and video from at least one sprint

Then, here are two ideas to begin spreading the good word about design sprints, while minimizing the amount of stink-eye you’re sure to receive from colleagues and superiors who feel threatened.

Invite influential and skeptical spectators

Prepare yourself: you’re going to be the kid at recess with the shiny new toy that everyone wants to play with. In healthy working environments, that’ll mean praise and promotions; for the rest of the corporate world, expect to earn some frenemies who will resist the change you’re ushering in.

Did you ever hear the expression that you get more bees with honey than vinegar? Well, if you’re going to win this war, especially since you’re probably still outnumbered, you’re going to need to make some friends in high places.

Since others like you—innovators, experimenters, problem solvers, leaders!—are going to be easier to rally, the best approach is to involve anyone you feel would block you/design sprints. You should invite several visitors to observe your sprints. Likewise, you should invite 1-2 (max) to participate per sprint.

Make them feel special. Explain what’s happening at every point, while comparing it to how things traditionally worked. Ask for their feedback. Have the rest of the sprint team spend time with them too.

  • Influencers to consider: those who are in charge of roadmaps, budgets, and people
  • Skeptics to consider: those whose jobs will initially (mistakenly) feel most threatened; e.g. designers, PMs, researchers.

If you do this early and often, you should expect to turn cynics into supporters.

Publish success stories

Remember those pics and video clips you took? It’s time to use them inside presentations, highlight videos, and articles that memorialize the sprints you’ve run so far.

Eight simple ground rules:

  1. Tell a story: People need to empathize in order to care (and keep reading)
  2. Make it fun: This isn’t theater but, let’s be honest, a fun-looking process is going to win people over more easily than your typical boardroom brainstorm snoozefest
  3. Educate, don’t pitch
  4. Avoid jargon
  5. Share success criteria and your results, upfront if possible
  6. Compare to existing approaches
  7. Prepare multiple formats—some like to read, others like to watch
  8. Use Medium, the best platform for thought leadership and audience building
New Haircut’s Medium publication

Remember, anyone that you haven’t included in your early sprints is not going to understand or care what you’re talking about. That’s OK. If you follow the guidelines above and keep at it, eventually, as success stories spread, they’ll begin to pay attention.

Take it from someone who’s been talking about design sprints for close to three years: people need a lot of time and space to decide they’re ready to try on something new.

Last tip…remember those influencers and cynics? Share your publications with them first. Ask if they have any additional ideas or things you might have missed. Then, be sure to mention them in the publication. You will now have an ally for life.

Wrapping up

Although this series only covered a few large, but hopefully actionable, ideas for scaling design sprints, the most important thing to realize is that it will be a journey.

Don’t rush it. Don’t over-promise. And do the prep work.

If you approach design sprints with this mindset and build up support around you, design sprints should have a long, healthy future at your company. And even if your current company ultimately rejects them, you will have some serious chops for your next gig.

Additional design sprint resources

If you’re currently working in the enterprise and fighting to evangelize design sprints, I recommend following the inspiring work of Brooke Creef. She’s building the design sprint practice from the ground-up at Home Depot.

Explore New Haircut’s upgraded Design Sprints—engineered to help teams improve the quality of communication, foster teamwide trust and collaboration, and maintain strict accountability.

Duco is a free iOS and Android app to help you prepare and organize your design sprints.