SPRINT – book review

Imagine being able to de-risk your start-up by accelerating the process from conceptual product design through to initial client feedback in one week, from start to finish. This is the concept that underpins “Sprint.”

The origin of the “Sprint” can be found at Google Ventures, where the CEO, Bill Maris determined the issue facing start-ups was that typically they only had enough funding to bring their product to market once, where quite often customers would only be able to engage at the end of the process, which was inherently risky.

At the same time within Google, a small team had been working on product sprints to launch new experimental product features, where they had already had some successes. This culminated in a sprint team forming within Google Ventures, with the express purpose of helping the start-ups they invested in, led by Jake Knapp, the author of this book, and the one who first pioneered the technique within Google.

Since they started working within Google Ventures they have done over 100 sprints, where as part of that, they have honed their process to the point where they outline the steps they believe any business can follow which is facing a key decision in regards to their business and commercial strategy, where this is broken down into six distinct phases over one business week.

  • Set the stage: Identify the strategic problem. Make sure the right people are taking part. Clarify the rules of engagement in advance.
  • Monday: Set the goal, diagnose the problems, choose a focus for the sprint.
  • Tuesday: Brainstorming – Sprint style, put detailed solutions to paper.
  • Wednesday: Identify the best solutions, Make a plan for the prototype.
  • Thursday: Faking the prototype
  • Friday: Customer / Client feedback

This book is littered with insights based on the practical observations they have seen through where sprints have not gone to plan. Starting with the issues that emerge when the right people are not involved from the outset, the problem with group brainstorming and how to make it productive, through to how to identify the best ideas in a way that personality is not a factor.

However, probably the section that was most interesting for me was what to do on the fourth day of the sprint, the Thursday. In truth, we all know that to build a product in a week is not possible. Therefore, the whole concept of the sprint can only work through creating a prototype that is actually a fake, but good enough to get meaningful feedback. As a case-study, they site a company where on Friday customers will be giving feedback on the new website which is an e-commerce store. To build such a site in one day or week even would not be possible, so instead, they explored the competing ideas on how to engage with customers and mocked them up in an interactive way, where the final day determined which would get the most traction. Customers gave a clear winner and the end result was achieved. Indeed, according to the author, from their experience, it is always possible to fake a prototype.

The book concludes with a comprehensive checklist for anyone planning on doing their own sprint and on that point, I would say this is a very useful practical book. The concepts they outline are not complicated, the purpose of the book is to be a playbook for businesses trying to work through their own sprint and I highly recommend it for people looking to tackle a strategic challenge in their organisation.

About the author: James Chaplin
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