How to Create Good Design Sprint Goals and Questions

A design sprint goal is like the compass towards a solution, setting the direction that everyone agrees to take. It lays the first layer of remedy to your problem. A badly written goal can ruin your solution, and a great one can form a bulls-eye solution.

Goal setting is always done early on in Day One, after the introductions, rule setting, and sprint briefing. You’ll do it in two stages: establishing the goal, and then questioning the goal.

To establish the goal, you need the pre-flight items. These are the research, data, and results you collected before the design sprint starts. A pre-flight consists of:

What is a design sprint goal?

A design sprint goal is an achievable target that signifies success for your sprint. It should be:

  • Optimistic, forward thinking, and inspiring.
  • Time bound, between mid to long term. Allow a time horizon between 6 months — 2 years.
  • Measurable and achievable.
  • Impactful for your customers or users.
  • Agreed upon by everyone.
  • Simple and easy to remember.

However, be mindful that the sprint goal is not a KPI or a mission statement. The goal should align with the company’s vision and mission, and you may derive a few KPIs from the goal. But they are not the same.

Examples of design sprint goals

Just like the Goldilocks parable, the goal should be just nice — not too big, too vague, or too unrealistic. Using a fictional scenario, I will try to illustrate what I mean.

Challenge: Online sales is a tiny portion of overall revenue. You need to steadily grow online sales to counter declining in-store sales due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But so far, there have been numerous complaints and negative feedback on the website.

A goal that’s too big or broad: Build the best website that beats our competitors.

A goal that’s too vague: Revamp the website to get more sales.

A goal that’s okay: Revamp the user experience to help double the online sales within 1 year.

Your goal doesn’t have to be perfect or nicely worded. In fact, you may find that you need to tweak the goal, as you go through more activities in the design sprint. To help you shape the goal, you can ask these questions:

  1. Can this goal give the biggest impact to our customers?
  2. Would our customers love this goal?
  3. Where do we want to be in 6 months, 1 year or 5 years’ time?

What are questions in design sprint?

Once you have a goal, the next step is to question your goals. This is an equally important step in the process because it grounds your assumptions and tries to shape a realistic solution. It’s the opposite of goal setting. When creating goals, you want to be as optimistic as possible, while in the question session, you need to be more pessimistic.

Like a wise critic, you’re looking to poke holes into your target. You’re figuring out potential roadblocks, and whether your target is realistic and doable. This exercise helps you look out for pitfalls and focus on the areas that are critical to success.

Based on the goal example in the previous section, some of the questions to ask are:

  • To achieve our goal, what needs to be true?
  • What can go wrong? What does failure look like?
  • How would the customers measure our website?
  • Can we integrate with other apps to achieve our goal?
  • Can we support a growing site traffic?
  • Can we reduce the risk involved?

How to create sprint goals and questions?

First: Creating sprint goals

  1. Brief everyone on the challenge.
  2. Distribute sticky notes and marker.
  3. Set a timer for people to think and generate sprint goals, based on the current scenario.
  4. Write one goal per sticky note. It’s okay if you only come up with 1 goal.
  5. Once time is up, get people to stick their goals on a wall or whiteboard. Allow them to briefly explain each goal to the room.
  6. Now, it’s time for the voting session. Hand out dot stickers for people to stick it on the goal they like the most.
  7. If you have a lot of goals to vote on, you can distribute more stickers per person.
  8. Start the timer for voting. Once finished, re-arrange the notes according to the number of votes.
  9. Briefly discuss the results, and then summarise the top 3 into 1 goal statement. This will be your design sprint goal.
  10. If there is no clear winner or a lot of great ideas, group them to short-term to long-term goals. The ones that are more urgent will be the design sprint goal, while the rest is for future projects.

Second: Creating questions for the sprint goal

The process for creating questions is the same as creating goals. Get people to generate questions based on the sprint goal you’ve just created, and then vote on the most critical questions that will shape the solution. If there are many critical questions to address, you can group them into different categories or areas.

Your final list should make you aware of potential limitations and pitfalls that will obstruct your goal. In fact, you may find that the sprint goal isn’t quite right, after going through the question session. The questions also serve as a guide or checkpoint when you’re designing solutions later in the sprint. In short, they don’t just question your goal, they also help shape a better solution for your sprint.

How to run a remote design sprint goal and question session?

Running a remote session for sprint goal and questions, is not only easy, but can be more efficient if you’re using the right tool. I use Mural for our remote sprints with clients. It’s simple, easy to learn and has all the tools we need like voting sessions and timer. You can also check out Miro, another popular tool with great reviews.

Watch my YouTube video, where I show you how to do it remotely, step by step, using Mural.

Family first // Principal @relabstudios // Customer-obsessed digital design agency // Design sprint advocate // Melbourne // Say hello @alhermanto

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