Sprint tactics are methods to refocus your team and to reach all of your planned goals. As detailed in Forbes and the Harvard Business Review, a sprint is defined as establishing a set amount of time for a team to finish a project. Jake Knapp of GV Venture Capital Group coined the phrase “Sprint” to describe the five-day fast track he implemented with his own team, as well as the 100-plus startups that GV has worked with.
Knapp is quick to clarify that Sprints are not just for startups; they can work in a 9-to-5 job, too, and can complement normal sleep schedules. In Sprints are the Secret to Getting More Done, GV partner John Zeratsky explains that all companies can use Sprints to start, focus, and build an effective workplace.
So why are Sprints effective
Get Off the Starting Block
Time constraints result in more pragmatic and focused ideas on the task at hand because a project team only has time for that task. Zeratsky recalls an experience he had working with Savioke, a robotics company specialized in building robots for the service industry. At first, the development team was struggling to come up with a realistic prototype that could deliver room service in hotels because it spent too much time focusing on what the robot’s personality and behavior should be. When Zeratsky’s GV team implemented the Sprint, by the end of the week, a simple robot personality was being tested interacting with actual customers.
Zeratsky had a similar experience when working with Gimlet Media, a podcast startup. Co-founders Alex Blumberg and Matt Lieber became stuck constantly debating whether they should become a technology company. When GV employed their Sprint system with Gimlet Media, the co-founders left behind the hypotheticals and put to paper what they believed would happen if they became a company. They created a prototype of an app that they would bring to market and tried it with some of their loyal customers. When Gimlet received less positive feedback than they hoped for, they realized that it was not in their best interest to become a company.
Focus On What’s Important
Every Sprint starts out with a full day of planning. After everyone understands the challenge, it’s easier to see which parts require which skillsets. When thinking about who a specific product can affect, it can be easy to get ahead of oneself and waste time thinking of all possible effects instead of the prevalent ones. Zeratsky points to GV’s experience with Flatiron Health, a company that manages a software platform for oncology centers. When the Flatiron team was developing a new product, they were worried about the effect on all of the firm’s stakeholders: doctors, patients, and research coordinators. When the Flatiron team mapped out exactly what their product was going to do, they realized that this specific product most directly affected research coordinators, so they were able to move to the trial phase and receive feedback more quickly.
Make the Call
Typically, consensus is key. Companies search for consensus when making any big business decision. Although consensus is certainly something to be valued, it sometimes leads to inactivity and complications where a team is more inclined to procrastinate than take action. Zeratsky explains that when working with Slack, a communications platform for teams and businesses, the team was split between two website designs. One was championed by the CEO and was bold but difficult to implement, while the other was more basic but also more pragmatic. Before the Sprint, both sides debated endlessly but never moved past the idea stage. In the Sprint, it was faster to create two different prototypes rather than spend time arguing over which one should be made. After the experiment, Slack realized that the more conventional design was more profitable.
By using Sprint tactics in your own projects, you’ll find heightened productivity and improved results. If further interested in the Sprint mechanism, check out Zeratsky’s full book SPRINT: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days.