GVDS Journal #5: Sketchy transitions

The framework for the main virtual design sprint teaching modules are done. Next steps are to port all of this into Trello for better tracking, scheduling and linking to related references. It’s also going to be time to open the Pandora’s box that is Podia and see if it’s really what I’m looking for. All of that will happen tomorrow.

What’s interesting is how much a deviation the Experienced/Expert tracks are from the traditional recipe of a design sprint. I didn’t intend for them to end up that way, but it’s really not a bad thing.

Can they even be called design sprints anymore? It’s probably safer to say they are pure hybrids of the original model, but I’m okay with that. In fact, I’ve advocated and promoted hybrids for over a year now. It’s the only way to fly.

And on that note, I need to file a complaint to the ‘Nobody’s Going To Do Anything About This Department’. 😁

In the course of creating those sketchy frameworks I pictured at the beginning of this journal entry, they were sourced mostly through existing documentation and experiences I’ve had with virtual design sprints.

For the beginner track, it was following the work of Jake Knapp, Richard Banfield and C. Todd Lombardo and repurposing what I had already done a couple of years ago. It’s more of a primer on the methodology, so it wasn’t too hard to come up with an overall agenda for that bit of training.

When it came to sketching the Virtual Design Sprint track and my own recommended set of activities, I explored what’s currently out there (paid and free) for others to understand, learn and do remote/virtual design sprints.

I was already aware of Just Mad’s brilliant videos and webinars on the topic, as well as Andrej Ktitarev’s exploratory work with construction effective workshops and whiteboards. Lisa Mo Wagner had a number of hybrid examples I could reference. Mural and Jeremy Jodeau’s Boardle.io had some fantastic whiteboards and instruction sets to draw from.

But the thing that really disappointed me were the design sprint traditionalists (those who swear by in-person workshops) who put out their remote sprinting recommendations.

I know they were doing their best to guide their readers and watchers through their recommended set of exercises and agendas for remote design sprints. Some had exhaustive documentation and checklists on how to execute a remote design sprint effectively. Others had some really slick Mural and Miro templates to help things along. It was all well intentioned.

But having been ‘in the game’ for two years… living and breathing this process while suffering through all the dumb and misguided mistakes I’ve made with the GVDS over time, I can make this statement with complete confidence: The original design sprint process does not properly scale into an online environment without a significant amount of modification.

You could go through the motions, do all of the original exercises, parse which exercises are together online vs offline alone, etc. You can even do a lot of preparation in advance of doing your design sprint, follow all the recommended tips to ensure an active, vibrant and attentive team to work with.

Yet, you won’t be taking advantage of the inherent time savings and that a true, online environment offers a virtual design sprint team (where everyone is on their own screen). Worse, you may insist on doing analog/offline exercises (like Crazy 8's… especially Crazy 8’s) that have much better online alternatives (SCAMPER, Evil 8’s, Fractal Pathing).

The best engagement models for virtual design sprints has and will always be hybrid models of the original. Whether it’s called a ‘design sprint’ is up for debate, but pure ports of the original with some window dressing and scaled modifications to make them look like remote alternatives is just poor form. It could be done a lot better.

TL:DR — Use the original method to understand how a design sprint works. Then, start modifying and creating your own online recipes for doing virtual design sprints that work for you.

See you tomorrow. :)

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Robert Skrobe

Robert Skrobe

I run Dallas Design Sprints, The Design Sprint Referral Network and Talent Sprints.