A structured tool for services: the Design Sprint

When you want to improve your ways, you can use a small step approach (Kaizen) or breakthrough approach (Kaikaku). To learn more about the two approaches: Kaizen or Kaikaku?

The majority of companies start with a Kaizen approach. This is indeed ideal when teams are not used to questioning. After some time, in order to have more progress Kaikaku approach is a good complement. I detail for you the Design Sprint, a structured approach for radical change. Like all Kaikaku, It is realized over a week!

Infographic with five steps for the 5 days of Design Sprint.

Very first step

Obviously, first of all, you’ll have to assemble a team. You must identify the participants in the work team. You want various profiles, from different sectors, that directly work the process, the product or the service you want to improve. Finally, you will have to find a sponsor, as high as possible in the hierarchy. It will be easier to have “dedicated” resources for a week.

Now you want the best employees, and their managers don’t want to lose them for a week. To negotiate more easily, you could plan to have 6 hours of teamwork each day. You leave to everyone the remaining time in their day to treat the emergencies in their sector.

The design Sprint methodology relies on the PDCA, nothing new in it, if not a vocabulary more specific to the service sector. On the other hand the Design Sprint only deals with the first three steps: Plan Do Check. As in any blitz-type workshop, the idea is to have a functional solution at the end of the week. Corrections, improvements, decisions related to the solution will be taken later. The Act is realized in a second time.

The Design Sprint in detail

Day 1: Understand

As always you have to start by defining the problem to be solved. Easy? Not so much. Indeed, the problem is often a matter of point of view. You have to get the team members to agree on the problem to be solved. Even if the sponsor can influence the team, it is essential that the problem is defined by the team. I have already addressed the issue of intrinsic motivation in another article.

A day seems a lot to you to define a problem? Once again, not so much. When defining the problem, the team begins to solve it.

If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend fifty five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes to find the solution.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German, Swiss and American theorist physicist

How do I define the problem? You can:

Once defined, write the problem on a huge sheet, which all will see permanently. The goal is to stay focused on your problem.

Day 2: Diverge

On this second day, you will find the maximum number of solutions to address the problem. Now is the time to get the magic wand and imagine what the ideal solution would be.

We are in a day of creation, to stimulate brains, you can settle in a different place: a coffee shop, a lab or just outside. Anything is possible, so enjoy.

Day 3: Decide

It’s the hardest day. It is necessary to select one solution, among all those imagined. What is the best option? Everyone will be the advocate of his favorite. So find indicators, voting points, a measurement grid to choose a solution. It is possible at this stage to build a solution, but it will only be a combination of solutions mentioned the day before, or an adaptation. The risk on the third day is to start again on new ideas.

Five business people discussing. One holds a sheet of paper while another one points at it.

Go back to your problem, what is the best solution to solve this problem?

Day 4: Prototype

Get your pencils out! You will realize the prototype of the solution, the proof of concept (POC). Obviously, it will not be the final solution. If you have a Web solution, you will be content with a PPT presentation, possibly with some links to imitate your solution. If it is a product, cardboard, scissors and glue will help you to model it. If it’s a concept, you can use your cartoonist skills or fetch images from the Web to explain it better.

The objective of the prototype is to be tested by the customer. You have identified the best solution, but it is the client who will decide in the end.

Day 5: Test

To conclude the week, and get a feedback, you will validate the solution by submitting it to users. Ideally, real customers will test the solution. They will tell you if that solves the problem you identified.

At the end of the week, you will have completed the first 3 steps of a PDCA cycle. At the end of the day, you will decide: we keep, we throw, we improve, then everyone will return to his routine the following week.

Indeed conclusion

A Design Sprint is a structured method of rapid improvement in the service sector. It can obviously be applied in the manufacturing sector.

The organization quickly gets a solution to a problem. It can then decide to move forward with the proposed solution. It will have tested a solution at a lower cost.

Each of the team members is growing up. They developed skills, learned to know other people. Their contribution, the confidence given, the challenges raised during the week will keep them motivated for long weeks.

To remember

It is therefore beneficial for all, even if the solution is ultimately not retained.

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