April 26, 2021
2 min read

Running Your Own Design Sprint? Avoid These Common Mistakes.

Lessons from the trenches after running 50+ Design Sprints and learning from one goof-up at a time...

Running Your Own Design Sprint? Avoid These Common Mistakes.
Design Sprints are an amazing process that can do wonders if done right. But things can go downhill equally fast if you're new to the concept or just not prepared for that one troublemaker in the room!

We've been running Design Sprints for 6 years now, and we've seen everything go wrong. Whether it's the Decider walking out an hour into the sprint, a troublemaker who revels in the word "NO" or sketches that would embarrass a toddler, we know how quickly a sprint can go off the rails.

That's why we've created a free guide with our biggest mistakes and learnings — so you don't have to make them too. This guide breaks down the top 28 mistakes that will tank your Design Sprint, why they happen, and how you can avoid them, plus a bunch of bonus tips and tricks.

Wait...what's a Design Sprint?

You probably already know this if you're about to start a Design Sprint, riiiight? 🤨

A Design Sprint is a five-day process where a diverse team works together to understand, prototype and test their solution for a big business problem. If the solution is a winner, it goes straight into product development.

The Design Sprint framework helps teams quickly identify the right problems to solve and test their solution through rapid prototyping and user feedback. Within a week, teams can move from an abstract idea to a high-fidelity prototype tested with real users. It's efficient, quick and easy on the budget.

Learn more about Design Sprints here.

Who is this guide for?

If you're facilitating a Design Sprint, this guide is for you. That includes external sprint facilitators (like us) who run sprints for other teams, or people who want to organise a sprint for their own organisation.

Our guide is organised by the original five-day Design Sprint 1.0 schedule, but everything in it also applies to the four-day Design Sprint 2.0 process.

I'm not convinced... give me a sample.

Here you go! Read below to learn how to deal with a common Design Sprint mistake — a confused Decider.

The Decider is making a obviously bad decision

What this looks like

😱 The Decider makes a decision, and your first thought is “NOOOOOOOOO”.

As new facilitators, we were inclined to act like product strategists or senior designers — being persuasive and calling the shots on what decisions to take. But after a lot of Design Sprints, we’ve learned that it’s important for a facilitator to stay as neutral as possible.

But what if the Decider is making a bad decision? How can you keep the sprint on track without losing your neutrality?

Why it happens

😳 The Decider isn’t an expert in Design Sprints.

While the Decider is definitely an expert in their company and field, they probably aren’t an expert in running a successful Design Sprint. In fact, this is probably their first sprint.

Their first decision in the sprint won’t always be the right one. Your role as the facilitator is to help them fix this.

How to prevent it

⁉️ Targeted questions are the key to staying neutral while keeping the sprint on track.

Open-ended but pointed questions can help remind the Decider about the sprint’s purpose and goals. This will often help them get to an “aha!” moment, realise they’re headed in the wrong direction, and make the right decision.

Sometimes the Decider can be stubborn about their decision, despite your pointed questions. That’s when you need to temporarily set aside neutrality and don your consultant hat. Take the Decider aside for a private conversation and explain how their decision will hinder the Design Sprint.

🤔  Example:

Say that the goal of a Design Sprint is to improve user retention. When the Decider is picking their focus area on the map, choosing onboarding would be an obviously bad decision, since user retention is all about daily use.

In this case, you could ask questions like "What is the problem we're addressing in this sprint? Aren't we focused on improving user retention? Which area will help us solve that?"

Interested? Don't forget to check out the guide before you kick off your next Design Sprint!

P.S. Let us know your thoughts. What did we miss? What pro-tips should we add? 

Running Your Own Design Sprint? Avoid These Common Mistakes.
Robin Dhanwani
Founder - Parallel

As the Founder and CEO of Parallel, Robin Dhanwani spearheads a pioneering approach to product design, fusing business, design, and AI to craft impactful solutions.