Sprint: A book review by Bob Morris

SprintSprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days
Jake Knapp with John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz
Simon & Schuster (March 2016)

Here is a unique methodology “to solve big problems, test new ideas, get more done, and do it faster”

With John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz, Jake Knapp explains how to solve the biggest problems, answer the most difficult questions and/or generate the best ideas with what he characterizes as a “sprint team.” Knapp invented the Google Ventures process and has run more than a hundred sprints with startups. However, the same process — with only minor modification — will work within any organization, whatever its size and nature may be,

What’s involved initially?

1. Recruit a team of seven (or fewer).

o Decider (group leader)
o Facilitator (results-driven navigator)
o Finance expert (best knows your organization’s finances)
o Marketing expert (competitive environment)
o Customer expert
o Tech/logistics expert
o Design expert

2. Identify most important problem to solve, most important question to answer, etc.
3. Identify “expert” candidates, perhaps from outside the organization to include on an as-needed basis.

Think of a sprint team as analogous to a SWAT team or SEAL Team Six. It has a tightly-structured five-day schedule to complete its assignment. The sprint process is easy to explain and Knapp has no doubt about what can be accomplished. “Sprints offer a path to solve big problems, test new ideas, get more done, do it better, and do it faster. They also allow you to have more fun along the way. In other words, you’ve absolutely got to try one for yourself. Let’s get to work.”

Yes, that’s right: Each sprint is a five-day process.

MONDAY: Create a path for the sprint week; agree on a long-term goal; create a map of the challenge; then select a target

TUESDAY: Share and evaluate possible solutions; remix and improve; then each team member will complete a sketch (See pages 103-118)

WEDNESDAY: Critique all possible solutions and select those most likely to succeed; then take the winning sketches from all the sketches and weave them into a storyboard

THURSDAY: Adopt a “fake it” philosophy to convert the storyboard into a realistic prototype

FRIDAY: Share prototype with customers and observe interactions; interview customers to obtain feedback. “This text makes the entire spring worthwhile. At the end of the day, you’ll know how you have to go, and you’ll know just what to do next.

Since 2012, Knapp and his associates have run more than one hundred sprints with startups. “That’s a big number, but it pales in comparison to the number of people who have taken the sprint process and used it on their own to solve problems, reduce risk, and make better decisions at work.” Now with the publication of this book, the number of independent “Sprinters” is certain to increase rapidly and substantially.

The book includes a checklist, accompanied by key ideas. Also, a list of “sprint supplies” and an annotated schedule template, followed by an FAQ section. I also urge you to check out all the free resources available at the sprintbook.com website.

While working my way through the narrative I was again reminded of an observation by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Gary Knapp, John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz may have had that thought in mind when creating the material for Google Ventures and later (after extensive fine-tuning) for the manuscript of this book. They highly recommend that those who read the book follow the guidelines during their first few sprints but urge them to then make whatever modifications the members of the next sprint team deem appropriate. If your organization needs a unique methodology “to solve big problems, test new ideas, get more done, and do it faster,” look no further.

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