Sprint by Jake Knapp

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Like the authors: Knapp, Zeratsky and Kowitz – and demonstrated by you reading this summary – you have a desire to improve productivity. We can all track activities; try to establish the best time to do specific tasks; identify when we are in the “zone” for creativity; and no doubt are aware of countless ways to create a to do list!

In Google Ventures (GV) Knapp and Co focused on improving team processes: how can we work better together.  Coupling this with their responsibilities in GV and their objective to identify the “next best thing” the concept of Sprints was derived.

Good ideas are hard to find. That’s true whether you’re running a startup, teaching a class, or working inside a large organization. Sprints can assist that search. This book is a DIY guide for running your own sprint to find your good ideas.

On Monday, you’ll map out the problem and pick an important place to focus. On Tuesday, you’ll sketch competing solutions on paper. On Wednesday, you’ll make difficult decisions and turn your ideas into a testable hypothesis. On Thursday, you’ll hammer out a realistic prototype. And on Friday, you’ll test it with real live humans.

Addressing the Challenge 

No problem is too large for a sprint. First, the sprint forces your team to focus on the most pressing questions. Second, the sprint allows you to learn from just the surface of a finished product. The surface is important. It’s where your product or service meets customers. Human beings are complex and fickle, so it’s impossible to predict how they’ll react to a brand-new solution. When our new ideas fail, it’s usually because we were overconfident about how well customers would understand and how much they would care. Get that surface right, and you can work backward to figure out the underlying systems or technology.

Picking the Roster.

Ocean’s Eleven is a great movie. In the film, Danny Ocean organizes a band of career criminals for a once-in-a-lifetime heist. A sprint resembles that perfectly orchestrated heist. You and your team put your talents, time, and energy to their best use, taking on a major challenge and using your wits to overcome every obstacle that crosses your path. To pull it off, you need the right team.

Knapp suggests the ideal size for a sprint team to be seven people or fewer. With eight or more, the sprint moves more slowly, and you’ll have to work harder to keep everyone focused and productive. With seven or fewer, everything is easier.

Here are Knapp’s suggestions for team members:

  • Finance expert who can explain where the money comes from (and where it goes)
  • Marketing expert who crafts your company’s messages
  • Customer expert who regularly talks to your customers one-on-one
  • Tech/logistics expert who best understands what your company can build and deliver
  • Design expert who designs the products your company makes

Also bring the troublemaker, that smart person who has strong, contrary opinions. Their crazy idea about solving the problem might just be right. And even if it’s wrong, the presence of a dissenting view will push everyone else to do better work.

The final member of the roster is the Decider. These Deciders generally understand the problem in depth, and they often have strong opinions and criteria to help find the right solution. If your Decider doesn’t believe the sprint or its focus to be worthwhile, that’s a giant red flag. You might have the wrong project. Take your time, talk with the Decider and figure out which big challenge could be better.

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