April 24, 2016

“Sprint” by Jake Knapp, with John Zeratsky & Braden Kowitz from Google Ventures

Sprint

c.2016, Simon & Schuster $28.00 / $37.00 Canada 274 pages

All day long, ideas run through your head.

Will this work? What if that process is tweaked? Can you make things more efficient, more cost-effective, speed them up, rev their engines? Or, as you’ll see in the new book “Sprint” by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz, is there a better way to conquer the meeting rat-race?

What happened at the end of your last brainstorming session?

Chances are, nothing. Great ideas floated around, there were arguments and a few silly suggestions but if you’re honest with yourself, not much got done. Sadly, it was business as usual.

In his job at Google, Jake Knapp brainstormed a lot, too, but when he realized that doing so was ineffectual, he began to tinker with the problem-solving process. He calls his new method a “Sprint,” and it starts on Friday, when you invite seven people to wipe their calendars and join you Monday morning.

Ask a Decider to come, and don’t forget the “Troublemaker.”

On Monday at 10 a.m., “you’ll start at the end,” Knapp says. What’s your goal? What answers do you need? You’ll make a map for your quest — then, after lunch, you’ll begin talking with “experts” who have “special knowledge” on the issues related to the problem you have.

Tuesday morning, you start to find solutions by reviewing what’s already on the table, “to remix and improve.” Bring paper and sticky-notes on Tuesday; you’ll need them for sketching and for jotting down questions and thoughts that come to mind. Your team facilitator will also need to start searching for “customers.”

On Wednesday, you’ll decide on “one solid plan,” then you’ll create your storyboard. On Thursday, mock up a prototype — one that doesn’t have to be pretty, but that has to work so you get the information you need.

And on Friday, you test your product with “customers.”

Having endured my share of non-problem-solving “problem-solving” meetings, I was eager to learn how “Sprint” can change the entire system. Quickly, I was rewarded with a happy moment: only a handful of people are involved in a Sprint. No more wasted time, in other words, and no more warm bodies just taking up space, which is a win.

Sprinting, according to author Jake Knapp (with John Zeratsky & Braden Kowitz) is a step-by-step, no-dilly-dallying method to get things done in about 30 hours. There won’t be any early-morning starts or midnight-oil burning, and you’ll utilize the strengths of people outside the meeting doors. Win-win!

And yet, what’s inside “Sprint” isn’t as easy as it looks. Knapp advises lots of prep time, especially for the “facilitator,” and some of his steps may seem like just a colossal waste of paper. Even so, with the numerous success stories and fail tales he offers, doesn’t a new problem-solving method seem worth a try?

If you’re a business owner or a manager with a thorny issue, you’ll think it is, especially after you’ve perused this book. So cancel that meeting. Re-think your problem. “Sprint” is a book to run out and get first.

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