Day 3 : Decide



With a stack of solutions in hand, it's time to finally narrow them down. Wednesday starts by demoing and critiquing each solution, then the voting process highlights the best ideas and helps the team decide which solution to take forward. Next, it's time to weave the chosen sketch with other great ideas to create the storyboard, a step-by-step plan for tomorrow's prototype.

The sketches are ugly and unclear

What this looks like

⁉️  The sketches don't make any sense.

You've rolled straight through Monday and Tuesday with successful alignment, demo and sketching sessions. But when you start Wednesday by reviewing the sketches (before the participants see them), you're shocked. They're terrible, and you can't understand the core ideas or elements.

Why it happens

🗣  Yesterday's instructions could have been better.

This issue can usually be traced back to facilitation issues on Tuesday. During the sketching process, it's important to give clear, frequent instructions about how to make sketches self-explanatory. Missing this step can lead to iffy, unclear sketches and a frustrating Wednesday.

How to prevent it

🙋 Break anonymity and ask everyone to present their own sketches.

You're now on the third day of the Design Sprint, surrounded by terrible sketches. It's too late to go back a day and improve your instructions, so what can you do?

Usually the facilitator summarizes and demos everyone's sketches. (This keeps sketches anonymous and reduces bias.) But when sketches aren't clear, you have to break this rule.

Ask each person to present and explain their own solution. Anonymity will be gone, but at least people will properly understand the ideas in each sketch. This helps everyone make a decision based on which ideas are best, rather than which sketches look best.

🤩  Pro Tip:

Make Wednesday easier by giving good instructions on Tuesday.

  1. Remind people to add notations to explain key elements of their final sketch.
  2. Remind people that the sketch should be self-explanatory and they won't be able to explain it.
  3. Remind people to use pen, not pencil, to make their final sketch more legible.

The decider refuses to pick just one sketch

What this looks like

🥺  "I can't choose just one sketch. Why don't we combine them all?"

This has happened to us quite often. When it comes time for the Decider to pick a final sketch, they say, "Each sketch is brilliant" or "There are just so many good ideas". They won't pick just one or two sketches. Instead, they suggest combining all the sketches or A/B testing multiple sketches.

Why it happens

👥  Lots of people equals lots of sketches.
💪  The team is knocking the sprint out of the park.

This often happens when you have larger groups of people in a sprint. Thanks to the paradox of choice, having lots of sketches can actually make it harder to choose one option.

This issue can also happen when a sprint group is awesome. Great groups tend to result in a great sprint with loads of amazing ideas. When everyone has created something brilliant that's worth taking forward, it's hard to choose which sketch is the most brilliant.

Lastly, this can happen if you have an empathetic Decider or lots of big egos in the room. A Decider might feel that they have to choose something from every sketch to not hurt anyone's feelings.

How to prevent it

🦶  Put your foot down and insist that the Decider choose one sketch.
🤝  Explain that other ideas can be added to the chosen solution later.

No matter what the Decider says, it's important that they pick just one or two solutions that solve the problem best. That's the whole point of the sketching process — generate lots of ideas and then align on just one to take forward to the prototype.

If you don't put down your foot, the team could end up mired in endless discussions on what to pick. Or even worse, they could end up with a solution that's a mismatched blend of too many ideas, created after too much back-and-forth.

If the Decider is still resistant, you can remind them that the selected solution isn't the final solution. Later in the day, the team will be able to add ideas from sketches that weren't selected into the chosen solution.

The user test flows are too long

What this looks like

🙏  People want to create longer user flows.

The moment that you ask people to write a user test flow with 6 steps, they start questioning you. "Can't I write 10 steps? What about 12 steps? Why limit it? Why so few steps?"

Why it happens

🌅  Product people tend to think big picture, not partial solution.

For product people, it's natural to think big picture. They are predisposed to think end-to-end, imagine the full journey, and build a solution around all the ideas they just excitedly created during the sprint. However, this can make it hard for people to focus on a partial solution.

How to prevent it

✍️  Limit user test flows to 6 steps, no exceptions.
📖  Mix and match them into a storyboard that you can prototype and test.

A Design Sprint moves super fast, especially on Thursday and Friday. Keeping your storyboard in check will help you make sure that you can prototype and test the solution in 2 days.

A sprint is about focusing on one key moment in a product. Restricting people to 6 steps is an artificial constraint, but it helps everyone focus on the core problem they are trying to solve. If the storyboard gets too long, you'll end up adding steps that no one has thought about or designed for yet.

After each person creates their 6-step workflow, you'll likely mix and match different people's steps into a final storyboard. Along the way, the user flow may expand to 8 or 9 steps. That's completely normal. The earlier 6-step constraint helps keep the final flow from getting out of hand.

🤩  Pro Tip:

Don't forget to give users clear examples of the steps in a user test flow. This helps them create a flow that is constrained and concrete.

For example, someone might write "onboarding" as one step of their user flow. However, onboarding is an entire user journey. It should be broken down into multiple user test steps — e.g. product walkthroughs, sign-up screen, and OTP verification.

Part of the group doesn't engage in the storyboard session

What this looks like

🥱  Most people aren't participating in the storyboarding session.

You've kept the group engaged through the last 3 days of alignment, mapping, sketching and voting sessions. But now that you're in the home stretch, only a few people are engaged in the storyboarding session. Most of the group is zoned out, chatting or on their phones.

Why it happens

😅  It's been a long 3 days of debating, brainstorming and ideating.

The storyboarding session comes at the end of the third day of the Design Sprint. Most people aren't used to brainstorming and collaborating for a few hours, let alone a few days. Despite your best facilitation, they may become drained or distracted after 3 days of workshops.

How to prevent it

👥  Mentally split the team into two groups — engaged vs. distracted.
🗒  Keep less engaged people busy with concrete, meaningful tasks.

There's an important balance to strike during storyboarding. On the one hand, you want everyone engaged in the session. You can't have half of the group answering emails, distracting others or creating trouble. On the other hand, you can't actually have everyone engaged in the storyboarding conversation. With that many voices, it's hard to converge on one storyboard quickly.

The best solution is to mentally divide the group in two. The first group is the key people who will help create the storyboard. This should include the Decider and 1-2 people who are super excited about storyboarding. The second group is everyone else in the sprint.

Use these groups to divide and conquer. Focus your attention on the first group, who can move forward, take decisions and complete the storyboard in no time. Meanwhile, set people from the second group on well-defined tasks. For example, say "I need your help to write copy for this page. Can you look at some examples?" This keeps everyone busy, makes them feel that they are contributing, and lets you create a strong storyboard in a short amount of time.

🤔  Example:

Here are examples of concrete tasks to help less engaged people contribute to the storyboarding session:
  1. Research a particular section of the storyboard.
  2. Write content or copy for a particular screen.
  3. Find references for how other products handle these steps.
  4. Look for inspiration for the next day's prototype.

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