Five Day Sprint

The Knowledge@Wharton blog recently published an interview with the authors of "Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days." The title alone is instructive, as it calls out a common difficulty businesses face: how to get things done, quickly (but intelligently). Organizations are chronically under staffed and rarely set aside dedicated time to research, analyze, and decide on future endeavors. The temptation to respond to the demands of the day are all too real and all too urgent.

A five day sprint maps out a finite time period with a very attractive reward at the end: a decision and a plan and a justification for what's next. These exercises can be conducted internally, or a third party can host, direct conversation, and even manage the ensuing project. The critical factor is that the conversation happens, the decisions are made, and the team — who generated the process — buys in to the final direction.

Still intrigued? 

From Wharton's opening statement: Many companies face difficult problems that require focused attention to solve, but many do not know where to begin. Written by Jake Knapp with John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz, partners at Google Ventures, "Sprint" offers a plan for identifying the best solution to a problem, developing a prototype and testing it with customers.

One of the biggest problems that we see over and over again … is getting stuck in abstract land. So when you’re in abstract land, you’re talking about what might happen when your project is finished, how you think your customers might react. It’s easy to . . . make a lot of assumptions and spend a lot of time on what turns out to be a hunch. So what we do in the sprint in the course of five days with the team is to figure out — what’s everything that we do know for sure about the project? What are the possible approaches we could take? Then, we get concrete really fast. We’ll make a prototype, and by the end of the week, we’re testing it with customers and actually finding out — do those concrete ideas work or not?

The interview goes on to elaborate on the activities and questions that should be addressed each day, from forming the team (a la "Oceans Eleven," wherein everyone has a specific skillset) to Friday, when you interviewing customers and — by the end of the day — deciding on your course of action.