How to Build Your Own Sprint Process

Sprint Methods - The 6 sprint stages

The 6 sprint stages

Each sprint goes through the 6 stages of design thinking. The idea of Design Thinking was created at IDEO and expanded through the Design School at Stanford. It’s incredibly useful for solving problems.

Understanding the 6 stages helps Sprint Masters build a great sprint.


The methods for each stage

Each of the stages can include design best practices, known as methods, such as “user interviews” or “competitive reviews.”

There are more than 40 possible methods, and you never need to use all of them. Select the right methods for your sprint, or add and invent your own best practices.

Understand Methods

  • 360 lightning talks on business goals, technology and user research
  • User interviews
Visiting users in the field where the product is used

  • Stakeholder map
  • Competitive overview
  • Summarize the learnings

360 degree lightning talks

Lightning talks allow the sprint team to understand the problem from many different points of view.
The talks should include

  • Business goals and success metrics 

  • Technical capacities and challenges 

  • Relevant user research


Competitive overview

What other products and services can inspire the team work? A brief review of 3-10 similar projects can be a great way to kick start the sprint.

For example, if a team is working on a online store experience, they might want to visit the sites, such as Google Play and list what they like and dislike.

User interviews

Users are the ultimate judges of whether a product is good or not. This is why it’s a great idea to start a sprint by finding and interviewing users.

The user interviews should include questions about how users use a particular product, and what they like and dislike about it.

When designing a new product, the interviews can focus on what alternative ways users employ to solve their problem.

Field visits

In some cases, interviews by themselves are less useful than visiting users in the context where they use the product.

For example, if making a product for technical support teams, it’s useful to visit the offices where they work and the space where they meet clients.

Field visits include all the best practices of a user interview, but additionally allow the team to understand the context.

Stakeholder map

Products and services often have multiple types of people they are designed for. The stakeholder map lists all the possible people concerned in a situation.

  • List all possible stakeholders in a project 

  • Group the stakeholders in meaningful sections
  • Decide what stakeholders you will design for during the sprint, and in what order. 

  • Plan need finding activities and consider creating a team to work on each group. 


Summarize the learnings and first ideas

It’s useful to conclude the Understand section by sharing the first set of ideas and insights people generate.

Use sticky notes to share the ideas, and group them into themes. Vote on the best ideas, the ones that bring the most insight and should be pursued. This exercise is a “first check” and not a final decision on a direction. The team will continue to learn and decide in the later stages, so nothing at this point is final.


Define Methods

The central User Journey

The define stage of the sprint is about breaking down the ideas into meaningful categories and defining strategies.

One of the ways to do that is to create a user journey: a map that lists all the stages that someone goes through from learning about the product to becoming an expert user.

Defining design principles

What 3 words would you like for users to describe your product? For some products, it’s important that users find them easy and fun; for others, it’s more important that they are comprehensive and powerful.

List all the possible design principles your team cares about individually, and select the best ideas as a team.

At the end of the sprint, you can ask users to describe the prototype in 3 words, and compare that list to your original intention.

The first tweet

Imagine it’s time to launch your product. What is the first announcing tweet you will send out?

Writing that can help the team focus their strategy in 140 characters... or less.


Diverge Methods

8 ideas in 5 min

This is a great technique that originates from Gamestorming workshops. It invites the team to work individually, and sketch 8 ideas in 5 minutes. It’s a great warm up exercise!

7 minute how-to

  • Give everyone a sheet of paper and ask them to fold it 3 times 1 min 

  • Ask the team to unfold the paper and notice the 8 grid rectangle created. 

Ask them to sketch 8 ideas in 5 mins, one in each rectangle.
/ 5 min

1 big idea in 5 min

Continue the previous exercise. Ask the team to work individually and sketch 1 big idea in 5 minutes.

1 storyboard in 5 min

Sometimes, the ideas are too complex to express on 1 page. This is when your team need to think in terms of stories or flows.

Ask your team to sketch a storyboard of all the key steps the user much take. If your team is new to design, encourage them to think in terms of comic book strips.

Decide Methods

Zen voting

After the sketching, it’s time to share the ideas on a whiteboard. Encourage sprinters to do zen voting: reviewing the ideas and voting in silence.

This allows everyone to form their own opinions before they get biased by others.

Team review & decision on what to prototype

At this point, the team can discuss the best ideas and decide which ones to prototype.

Often, it’s necessary to do more sketching and exploring.


Thinking hats

If your team is new or tends to be biased in their opinion, assign everyone a Thinking Hat. Each hat represents a different point of view that’s valuable and that can enrich the final decision.

Encourage everyone to choose a perspective and discuss the decision from that point of view.

Prototype Methods


A prototype is something that makes your ideas “real enough to feel,” so you can get feedback from users.

Teams tend to spend the most time in this stage. A prototype could be:

  • Mock

  • Demo

  • Video

  • Physical prototype



Validate Methods

User testing

As soon as the team is done prototyping, it’s time to test. A simple user test can uncover valuable insights very quickly.

  • What do users like and dislike in the prototype?
  • What would they like to improve?
  • Does the solution meet their needs overall?

Stakeholder validation

The key stakeholder of the projects often is the one who decides to fund or allocate resources to the ideas. This person may be the Director of the group or the CEO of the company.

Their review and approval is essential for the sprint to succeed.

Technical feasibility validation

Do the design ideas match or exceed the technical capacity of the team? An engineering review can help the team scope the work appropriately, and discuss potential workarounds.

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