11 Enablers for Sprint Success Against Innovation and Growth Strategy Challenges

April 28th, 2017

We’ve previously discussed our team’s experience running a strategy sprint against a disruptive innovation strategy challenge for a F100 client. And with every sprint, we learn and continue to optimize our approach. We thought it would only be fair to share our lessons learned to help enable other teams to apply the strategy sprint approach to solving big, strategic growth challenges.

One of the most important priorities during a sprint is to ensure that every phase, every week and every day aligns to the “why we’re here,” or purpose of the sprint. You need to clearly lay out the priorities in your sprint kickoff, daily agendas and weekly wrap-ups to keep them top of mind. Make sure your phases are structured to meet the intended objectives of the challenge throughout the process of defining the jobs, validating and prioritizing and then bringing them to life.

During a sprint, research should be iterative to allow for multiple touch points and ways to immerse the team in the given trend spaces and consumer pain-points/ jobs to be done. Use as many different types of research approaches as needed (digital ethnography, missions, in-person, expert interviews, secondary data mining) to quickly get to solid insights and to allow team members to develop context for the emerging innovation area they’re trying to come up with new solutions for.

It is critical that every single person on your team gives 100% dedication. During a sprint, you are answering a large volume of questions very quickly, and it’s possible to completely miss the mark on important details if everyone isn’t fully dedicated and locked in. Additionally, having diversity of thought and opinion from team members who weren’t previously involved in the given challenge can lead to increased ownership and passion for learning about the emerging trend space across the team, as well as lending a unique external perspective to the challenge. Having multiple backgrounds and skillsets on the team can prove invaluable to get you to a great place and can lead to unexpected benefits.

Allow team members to work on their own, but always bring the team back together to allow for interaction and discussion after periods of solo work. This enables team members to make sure “they’re doing it right,” to learn from one another’s experiences and to build camaraderie. Decisions are made often and quickly during a sprint, so you must leverage the power of the team to conduct the work and also act as “checks and balances” for each other as you move through to the next phases of work. One way that we enabled team communication in a recent engagement was through Slack, which allowed the team to remove themselves from the corporate communication system, eliminate distraction and quickly share documents on the fly, even when everyone couldn’t be in the same room.

Daily agendas are critical to help provide guidance to your team on what they’re doing and when they need to finish their work. It is crucial to provide visibility on weekly deliverables and on what you’re working toward that goes beyond the specific weekly activities to keep the team thinking bigger-picture. (E.g., instead of only providing the plan of what research you’re doing that week, share the deliverable or template that the team will need to complete by the end of the week, as well.)

For people who don’t have a background in this type of innovation and growth strategy work, “on-the-job training” is helpful to ensure success. For example, we provided additional context in our recent sprint session surrounding the innovation challenges our client team was facing with training modules on:

Make sure that every phase of the work has clear training/how to’s, especially if your team members don’t have experience. Case studies of other brands and companies can also be helpful to bring learning to life and provide additional context.

Bringing fun and “wow moments” into the sprint process adds to the overall experience and can boost morale and take your project to the next level. For example, we organized a team kickoff happy hour and ending happy hour with awards, brought in Shark Tank entrepreneur Neal Hoffman to help with pitch preps and skill-building, and had a fun pitch competition at the end to solidify which ideas were winners.

Never underestimate the power that your surroundings can have during a sprint session. Finding a space to work outside of your everyday environment can help inspire energy and creativity and allows your team to truly disconnect from the core business. Even better is if you can find a coworking space to allow your team to be surrounded by entrepreneurs and learn from other startups, creating a truly immersive experience.

It is critical to establish and set expectations throughout the entire sprint; you will move quickly and will have to work fast and make decisions quickly, all relying on team discussion and collaboration. Since this way of working will most likely be different from the way your company culture typically works, it is important to stress these differences up front and often throughout the sprint.

Bringing in external partners throughout the sprint process build alignment and momentum across your team. However, if anyone is brought into the process, it is important that they understand the vision and process behind the work in order to remove any distraction from meeting daily/weekly goals.

Since sprints take up a considerable amount of time and energy, it is critical to create a primer for each team member to get up to speed as quickly as possible prior to the sprint, without taking up too much time from their day jobs.

A sprint approach can be a very effective way to quickly address a tough strategy, business model or product development challenge. Keep these enablers in mind to ensure success.

Have you discovered other enablers? We’d love to connect and learn more!

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