/Book Reviews

Review - Sprint

Being a bit of a process geek, I was excited to read Jake Knapp’s new book, Sprint, which covers the refined innovation approach that is used at Google Ventures. I feel that this book is a must read for executives, digital product owners, as well as designers/developers (and I would rarely categorize one book as good for all of those demographics).

Detailed Review

One of the great things about this book is that it takes some of the core aspects of agile/lean methodology but boils them into a pragmatic and useful framework. Focusing on a smaller autonomous team with clear objectives and small batch sizes sounds like a framework for an agile development team, but in this case those concepts are utilized for rapid focused innovation.

The examples covered in this book are also excellent. In so many books, the examples are somewhat bland and not directly applicable to the reader. However, that was not the case here. Jake did an amazing job helping you understand the challenges that these organizations were facing. Many of these organizations were ones that I heard of or dealt with directly. Applicable examples are essential in a book like this.

If there is one thing lacking, I would say that is a bit unfortunate that this book doesn’t go more into how to take some of the concepts and bake them into a sustainable culture. The one week Sprint approach is an amazing framework, but many of these concepts don’t have to die when that week is over. It would have been ideal to hear more about mixing the rapid one week iteration sprint with a sustainable approach for ongoing lean development. However, even with that, I still give this book five stars.

Highlights

  1. The book gives great advice on structuring the team when executing these rapid innovation sprints. Jake lays out a lot of good techniques here including always having the decider in the room as well as the troublemaker.

“And if your Decider doesn’t believe the sprint will be worthwhile? If she won’t even stop for a cameo? Hold up! That’s a giant red flag. You might have the wrong project. Take your time, talk with the Decider, and figure out which big challenge would be better.” (p. 32)

  1. Another benefit was seeing the activities that are undertaken during this sprint. For example, the process of creating a customer-centric map (in Chapter 5) to illustrate the key actors and story lines is particularly useful in helping teams break down the overall complexity. In addition, simple exercises like the How Might We exercise (Chapter 6) are common tools that can be used outside of the bounds of the innovation sprint.
  2. Allowing participants in the sprint to maximize both group brainstorming as well as individual time for coming up with a solution was great. Some exercises like the Crazy 8’s (in Chapter 9) are helpful at providing rapid iterations in a short period of time. The techniques presented that maintained the momentum of the sprint and minimized unnecessary discussion were also solid gold.

“Each person believed his or her own idea could work. And each person could have spent an hour explaining why. But if we had to spend an hour discussing each idea, the whole day could have gone by without any clear conclusion.”

  1. One aspect that I loved was the focus on testing with real target users at the end of the week. There is a good amount of knowledge on how to best perform user interviews (Chapter 15) that will be immensely helpful if the concept is new to you. The only site that goes with the book also provides a video of one of the interviews taking place.

“In Friday’s test, customer reactions are solid gold, but their feedback is worth pennies on the dollar.” (p. 169–170)

Closing Thoughts

Even if you never implement this rigid one week innovation sprint, the techniques included in the book can be applied across a wide variety of scenarios. However, I think many organizations will be spurred to try the one week framework to solve a complex issue after reading through this book. This book does an absolutely amazing job of spurring action quickly and providing insightful case studies. I think you will love it.

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David Tucker

David Tucker

CTO Consultant for Custom Software

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