The Power of Being Impatient
“When you open up the web browser and log on to this system, what jobs do you need to do?” I was facilitating one of my very first Design Sprints and asking the question to a potential user with our group of ten collaborators in the room.
It felt like a pretty innocuous question to start clarifying what impact our new web homepage design needed to make. The group was prepared to hear answers from this expert interviewee about needing to access patient data or make clinical decisions.
But I’ll never forget the answers we kept getting interview after interview: “I need to make sure I don’t click on a super-tricky one at 4:45pm when I want to go home. If I click on it, as a matter of integrity, I’m obligated to stay and run it down until the patient is safe. But if there were a way to know ahead of time which ones were the chip shots and which were the needles in haystacks, that would be amazing.” From that one little nugget, our solution-finding took a remarkably different turn. And three days later when we put potential solutions in front of those same advisors, they were thrilled and so were we! Of course, we had endless new ideas that we were dying to try with that new lens on our work and we didn’t get to put them all into Gen 1. But that new insight made all the difference to bring the team together as co-conspirators and problem solvers.
From Insights to an Approach
As I wrote a few months ago, I tried the Design Sprint process a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Instead of investing hundreds of thousands of dollars and months in processes to get to new prototypes, it only took a few days to get our small but mighty groups of cross-functional collaborators to make huge progress. It was a home run!
I confess that I’ve always had kind on impatient streak. I absolutely love deep analysis and doing my homework on a new challenge. But at the end of the day, I love action that moves the group forward. I love leading a group of people collaborating, having fun taking a few risks, and really searching hard for the best way to solve a customer problem in a compelling way.
So, I’ve worked hard over the past few years to develop a framework that includes the critical activities with just the right amount of urgency to move a group through this process in the time they have available. Over time and working with groups working on diverse challenges including all things new: software, services, apps, product portfolio strategies, marketing programs, trade show tactics, and segmentation strategies.
And a Pandemic Pivot
Of course, when I started these, everyone was working together in person. If we wanted a Voice of Sales input, we had to fly them in. We used a lot of post-it notes. We bought exactly the snacks outlined in the Design Sprint book – and only supplemented a tiny bit with my favorite signature gummy bears!
But then everything changed. And so has my workshop facilitation. Instead of four or five full days together locked in a conference room, my norm these days is a what I would call a distributed approach.
- We do the market insights work in advance. We present the results to the workshop participants in a separate session a day or two before the actual workshop day.
- About then, an emergency pack of snacks and beverages arrives at each participant’s house to keep them caffeinated and well fed through the workshop.
- On the appointed day, we gather eight to twelve of our best collaborators on a Teams call or a Zoom. Everyone is in their own homes, their own time zone. Because they don’t have to travel and be out of their territories for multiple sales days, we get significantly more insights from Sales team members than we ever could have dreamed of before.
- We focus the morning on uncovering everyone’s best- and worst-case scenarios for future action.
- Then, we log off for a while to independently solve the challenge themselves using their own perfect judgment.
- Everyone sends me their answers and I assemble into a Virtual Lightning Round (via Powerpoint) and share all the answers with everyone. It’s crystal clear in about twenty minutes flat where the group is aligned and where they aren’t.
- The main group logs off to go eat snacks/lunch and I lead a decisionmaker caucus to note the alignments and misalignments. We jointly decide on the issues to assign to each small group for the early afternoon.
- The small groups dig deep to develop Option A and Option B as possible solutions to the challenge.
- We have feedback providers – either customer recruited blind or other salespeople who might have to sell this potential solution – teed up to log on by the late afternoon, so there’s not time for workshop participants to overthink or get stuck in analysis paralysis. They have just enough time to get the key points of their ideas on slides.
- I interview the feedback providers live in front of the whole group, so everyone gets to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- After the interviews, the workshop participants react to the feedback and advise the decisionmakers on Option C.
Is it a complete finished product? No, of course not. But has the team managed to get 80% of the way to the solution in a few short weeks and a highly focused day? You bet.
The Proof is in the Pudding
One of the most satisfying moments of my career was watching a promotional video for the new product launch for which we were designing that web page. In the video – more than five years after that workshop — they showed images of the website homepage, the patient app, and several other elements we initially designed by locking ourselves in a conference room for a week and getting after it. I’d long since moved on to my next career adventure, so was getting a peek at the final design for the first time. It looked eerily familiar to our original quick sketches. It had stuck!
Does your team need a focused workshop to make quick progress on challenge you’re facing? I’d love to help! Schedule time to chat with me today. We can chat about doing your workshop virtually or in-person, whatever you prefer.