As we help BigCo leaders keep their existing brands relevant, we learn and continue to optimize our Strategy Sprint approach. We thought it would only be fair to share our lessons learned to help enable other teams to apply this approach to solving big, strategic growth challenges.
Our Strategy Sprints help teams condense 12 to 18 months worth of traditional strategy work into a blazing fast, 2 to 5-week process to develop and align on a strong strategic direction. Small but mighty teams learn and prototype their way into new strategic options for their brand. The format enables teams to move fast against multiple paths forward, operate from a growth mindset, and focus on what they need to learn, not what they know.
Here is an example of how we enabled a team to take a Strategy Sprint approach to redevelop its Brand Architecture.
ADOPT ENTREPRENEURIAL SKILLS & MINDSETS
For people who don’t have a background in this type of innovation and growth strategy work, “learning by doing, on the job training” on entrepreneurial skills and mindsets 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.
STAY FOCUSED ON THE “WHY”
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.
LEVERAGE ITERATIVE CONSUMER TOUCHPOINTS
During a sprint, research should be iterative to allow for multiple touchpoints 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/virtual on iPad consumer interviews, expert interviews, secondary data mining, social media ethnography) 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.
MAINTAIN CONSTANT EXTERNAL CONNECTION:
Being able to move at warp speed is enabled by bringing in the right external perspective at the right times to enable the team’s progress. From trends, analogs, external experts, consumers, and timely connect with leadership, we help teams lean on new methods and fresh inspiration, keeping a connection to the real world throughout the process.
REFRAME HOW YOU ENGAGE LEADERSHIP
Take the time upfront to understand what is important to leadership. Integrate pre-planned senior leadership check-ins into the sprint to keep leadership informed along the way, giving them clear opportunities for when to give feedback. During those check-ins, be clear as to what you need from leadership, enabling them to give productive feedback.
FOSTER 100% MULTI-FUNCTIONAL TEAM EFFORT
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 a 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.
INFUSE “WOW MOMENTS” TO KEEP UP THE MORALE
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.
WORK OUTSIDE OF YOUR ENVIRONMENT
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.
BRING THE OUTSIDE IN
Bringing in external partners and maintaining strong external connections 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.
A sprint approach can be a very effective way to quickly address a tough strategy challenge. Keep these enablers in mind to ensure success. As you’re evaluating your portfolio going into the new year, and making plans for 2020, ask yourself: are you leaning on an outdated approach to solve problems? Could you leverage multiple methods to chart a path forward? Could you move faster, smarter, and more entrepreneurially? Our blazing fast Strategy Sprint workstreams enable teams to smartly tackle uncertain strategy challenges, enabling sometimes dramatic changes, moving fast to market, mitigating risk & optimizing along the way. See more examples of how BigCo teams have applied a Strategy Sprint approach to their challenge.