Let's start by saying that the Design Sprint is a process invented by Google to accelerate decision-making and reduce risk in strategic projects. The goal of a Sprint is to validate a concept in the space of a week by building a prototype and testing it on future customers in a friendly and creative atmosphere.
At BOOM, the Design Sprint method is used to understand the feasibility of a new idea through design thinking, to anticipate solutions before investing time and energy in creating a new product.
But how can design sprints take place remotely? Over the past year the working world has gone through huge changes. Face-to-face interactions have been replaced by remote working for many, requiring the support of new technologies and tools. There are no specific recipes to carry out a design sprint remotely, but here are a few good practices to support it.
How much time does it take?
A remote Design sprint could take four days,* one day less than originally planned if the tech team decides to not delve deep into the details of each activity.
Day 1: Start by aligning and exploring the problem space together, get everyone together to start to map the product/service experience. Select a key moment to focus on for the whole sprint, and then let everyone look for solutions (generating ideas and sketches) for that particular idea.
Day 2: Gather all the ideas and get the team to vote to identify the key idea that will create our storyboard with all the necessary details
Day 3: Create a prototype for the voted solution in view
Day 4: Test the solution with five real people, and then validate the design sprint (or not)
*Day 1 doesn’t have to be a Monday
Set the stage
The first and fundamental activity is preparation. Make sure you and the teammates you pick are comfortable with the new software tools you choose to use. Design sprints take place over several days, as do remote design sprints, so make sure you are prepared to stay on track no matter how tricky it may be to work across a couple of days.
Choose the right tools
There are three fundamental tools necessary to conduct a remote sprint. The first is video conferencing to keep everyone in sync during group activities. The second is a virtual whiteboard application that will become your shared brain for the sprint. The third is a team discussion forum to communicate throughout the week.
Prepare your sprint team
Before picking your teammates, identify the areas affected by your challenge and the target members, which will help frame your goal and challenges, and will then help you pick team members properly equipped to tackle that challenge. Your team should:
Ideally be made of four to seven people (less than four is risky, more than seven becomes chaotic)
Include a facilitator: a person who orchestrates the sprints and ensures that each exercise is done correctly and smoothly
Include a decider: a person who actually has decision-making power over the project in the real world (e.g. CEO or Product Owner).
Synchronous and asynchronous sessions
Remotely, attention is likely to wane faster than in presence. So make sure your remote sprint includes synchronous and asynchronous sessions, as well as break times every 90 minutes. Beware of time zones when conducting a remote sprint - 9 hours is the ideal window to be able to catch everyone at an appropriate time!
Create a remote design sprint brief
Make sure you create a clear brief and send it to all participants in advance to get the whole team on the same page. Make sure your brief includes clear instructions, introduction, goal, sprint design, principles, task, expectations, When, Where (tool), and final remarks.
You will have to use a template, which you can either create or get from tool communities such as Miro or Figma. The template will help you divide the activities of the different days and mark the time for each of them. You can always think about customizing them according to your needs.
Remember that you have to experiment to find the right recipe, so don't worry if the first few are not successful. Here are a few tips to conduct a remote design sprint correctly:
- Make on-screen presence mandatory: Ask all participants to keep their video mode on throughout the sprint.
A quiet atmosphere: Make sure everyone has a quiet place to work.
Check your equipment: An audio and video check is fundamental before your team logs in.
“Hall pass” protocol: Give the team a way to notify the group if they need to step away.
Two facilitators: You can take a co-facilitator who can focus on team involvement and focus on people interaction.
Practice visual facilitation: Include pictures or drawings to illustrate the process.
Call on people: As you are working remotely, be more direct with your peers.
Micro jobs: Make each person responsible for a small part of the sprint experience. For example, ask someone to keep time, someone to curate a playlist, and someone to manage the video conference connections.
Interruption signal: Decide on a simple and fun way to signal when someone wants to interject. This small rule will help reduce the energy it takes to jump into a heated discussion, especially for those who might be more soft-spoken.
Feedback: Ask for feedback after each session to make sure everything is going right.
AND...last but not least, conducting a design sprint remotely adds one important value: the creation of a team from different parts of the world!
All that remains now is to wish you a successful Remote Design Sprint!