How to Not Fail as a Design Sprint Facilitator

The role of a facilitator sits at the foundation of a successful design sprint. As a facilitator, you don’t determine the result or the destination, but you are the North Star in the journey. Whether the group makes it out of the woods in one piece, rests a lot on your shoulders.

If you’re new to facilitating or curious about what’s involved, then read on. I’ve been facilitating for almost 3 years, and I’m still learning new things, especially in this pandemic where design sprints are done remotely.

What does a design sprint facilitator do?

  • Preparing the design sprint
  • Providing the tools needed, usually as part of a facilitator’s toolkit
  • Establishing the 5-day schedule
  • Briefing the participants
  • Following the design sprint process
  • Asking questions and extracting every input
  • Keeping time
  • Maintaining the motivation, peace, and energy level in the room
  • Following up post design sprint

What’s in a sprint facilitator’s toolkit?

I’d advise you to provide everything yourself. If you let participants or the company provide on their own, you’ll likely end up with a shortage of supplies, dried up markers, and a rainbow of colourful stickers of varying sizes, which means voting won’t be anonymous.

Your toolkit should have:

  • A timer
  • Whiteboard non-permanent markers
  • Sharpies, pens, highlighters
  • Paper
  • Masking tape
  • Glue
  • Loads of dot sticker (in one colour)
  • A stack of Post-it notes
Tools of a design sprint facilitator
Tools of a design sprint facilitator

My top facilitating tips for a design sprint

Before the design sprint

1. Read up

2. Plan breaks wisely

3. Control the snacks

4. Brief the participants

During the design sprint

1. Start on time, stay on time

And always, keep an eye on the clock. A sprint’s schedule is quite packed that it’s hard to reach the goal if you keep running late. Your participants won’t be happy either to stay over time.

Timer for design sprint activities
Timer for design sprint activities

2. Remember names

3. Listen and acknowledge

4. Reassure them

5. Tend to a conflict early and politely

6. Trust the design sprint process

  • Excited to start
  • Doubtful of the 5-day process
  • Impatient to see the result
  • Tired or bored
  • Upset their idea didn’t win

As the host, you must be the one to project confidence in what they are doing. Otherwise, people can sense your doubts and the sprint will fail to hit its goal.

7. Be wise, not smart

However, it’s better if you have some experience in the product, and in business. You need the capability to tell the difference whether an idea is good or bad, or if discussions are going down the wrong road. That’s when you will need to steer the activity back on track.

8. Get adequate rest

9. Enjoy the process

After the design sprint

1. Analyse what worked and didn’t

2. Assign a follow-up person

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

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