Book Review – Sprint by Jake Knapp

sprintSprint subtitled Solve Big Problems and test new ideas in just five days promises to teach us a unique five day process for solving tough problems. The author writes that the technique has been tested at more than 100 companies. The book is coauthored by John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz  of Google ventures, and what lends more credibility to the book is that the technique originated at Google and has been used to develop numerous products. Jake, the main author, did work at Google where he created the Google ventures sprint process and has run numerous sprints with various startups. Jake defines a sprint as, Google Venture’s five-day process for answering crucial questions through prototyping and testing ideas with customers.

All that sounds very laudable, but how useful is the book? Well, to start with it is a good looking book, printed to very high quality. It is also very well structured. The content is divided into seven parts, five of them labelled Monday to Friday corresponding with the five days a sprint should take. The book is written in simple English which makes the topic easy to understand and it uses interesting stories too. After reading the introduction which briefly covered a story about using the sprint to test a robot, not only did I understand how a sprint works, I was hooked on reading the book. So the answer to my earlier question is, ‘yes’, I think the book is useful. Following is my review of the various sections.

Introduction

While this is not one of the book’s section that present the main content, it’s worth reading because it gives a good overview of what a sprint is, using the story of Savioke, a company that develops commercial robots. Just reading the introduction gives you a feel for the book and what to expect in the other sections.

Set the stage

This is the precursor to running a sprint. Here Jake covers how to prepare for a sprint. He discusses, defining the challenge the sprint will focus on, how to chose the right team, setting aside the right amount of time and making sure there is adequate space and correct equipment available for the sprint.

Monday

Here the first day of the sprint is discussed and a lot of content is covered here totalling almost 50 pages. In this section you will learn about:

  • Setting a long term goal for the sprint,
  • Listing sprint questions,
  • Creating a visual map of what is to be achieved during the sprint,
  • Taking information and noting it down from the experts in the team,
  • Picking a final target to focus on.

Tuesday

On the second day of the sprint after coming up with a target on Monday, the team will come up with solutions. Jakes describes the process through which that happens, and it includes:

  • First capture ideas from existing products and services. This is called a lighthening demo,
  •  Make a note of all the ideas captured,
  • Assign people to work on different aspects of the map created on Monday,
  • Sketch out potential solutions using the four step sketch method,
  • Put all the sketches with solutions in a pile. At this stage don’t look at them. That is for Wednesday.

It is also on Tuesday that customers are recruited for a test of the prototype on Friday.

Wednesday

Wednesday is solution choosing day and Jake explains the process to go through in detail. The goal here is to chose the best ideas which can help to achieve the long-term goal. A five step process is used to chose the best ideas and then create a storyboard to plan a prototype for the idea.

Thursday

Thursday is for prototyping and the day starts by picking the right tools for the prototyping process, Jake advices that tools chosen should be rough, fast and flexible. Next assign people roles and then start the prototyping process. Also a trial run of the prototype will be done and any mistakes will be corrected to finish up the prototype. Since the prototype will be tested with customers on Friday, an interview script is written for the test, customers are reminded  about the test and gift cards are purchased for the customers who take part in the test.

Friday

The last day and the focus is testing the idea because by Friday the team should have created lots of promising solutions, chosen the best and built a realistic prototype. So on this day customers will be interviewed and learning will be derived from watching customers react to the prototype. Jake gives some detail on how to conduct good customer interviews. While one person conducts the interview, the remainder of the group should watch, learn and collect notes and then work together to make a decision based on the customer data collected.

Lift off

Nothing much in this section, just further information about the importance of the sprint and how it’s being used. The story of the wright brothers who were the first people to successfully fly an aircraft is used for illustration.

Checklists

I included this section because it’s very useful. The checklists summarise the whole sprint process, and just reading this part of the book will give you a good overview understanding of how to run a sprint.

There is also a Frequently Asked Questions part in the book which covers a range of questions such as:

  • Can I facilitate a sprint without any experience?
  • Can sprints work at nonprofits?
  • Can we test with friends and family?

Overall this is a well written book, I will go further and call it a complete book on the subject, because it has a great introduction to the topic,then covers the topic in detail and finally summarises the topic with checklists. It is also straightforward to understand. If you do read this book I believe you can run a sprint straight after, if you follow the instructions given.

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