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San Francisco Writer, designer, person. Author of SPRINT. Joined over 6 years ago
This is the best possible chance to hear me have a rambling conversation with an Irish guy.
Stephen, what's up!
Okay, this is a great question, and a really tough one. I don't have a perfect answer. But I think about this all the time, so here are some thoughts.
One of the most frustrating feelings for me is being with my kids but being mentally at work, like my mind is stressed or consumed with some work problem. Sprints actually have helped me with that a lot, because if I know I'm working on the most important thing at work, and I know there's a method to solve the problem, it's easier for me to put it down and be present at other times.
I try to batch work as much as possible. Sprints are an obvious example, but another thing is just doing wall-to-wall meetings on one day, and then having work from home days when I can focus on design, writing, something quiet and focused.
Working from home with kids there got easier for me with practice. At first it was very distracting and the days were often not-so-productive. But when I worked on the book last year, I had the chance to do a lot of WFH days. I figured out where to go in my home, how to be clear with younger son about what to expect, when to play, etc. If you're lucky enough to be able to WFH but you've found it difficult with kids, keep trying.
Work is sometimes going to happen at home. When it does, I try to leave the room where my kids are. Being on the laptop or on my phone when they're around sends a signal that I'm not part of what's going on, and I've noticed that's really aggravating for them and frustrating for me. It's temporarily more difficult to say "I've got to do some work for 10/30/60 minutes/1/2/x hours but afterward I'll be back and I'll be here" than to try to be with the kids and responding to little things or paying attention to work at the same time.
With my younger son, I sometimes set a Time Timer and say "Okay, we are playing for x minutes and you have my undivided attention. Let's go." This is weird and felt like I was being a bad parent at first, but I think it's good for both of us. If it's a work day, and I know I'll have to get back to work, I can make an intentional plan instead of just trying to do both at once which, again, is quite frustrating.
When possible (and it's only occasionally possible) I try to bring my family or part of my family on work trips.
Work and family are two parts of my life. It's not work vs. life. I have to make the most of them. So I want to always push myself to find ways of working and ways of being with my family that feel really authentic, where I can be present and enjoy them. Enjoying work and enjoying sprints with my teammates is part of the big picture, too. So is showing my kids what my work is like and letting them into that world whenever possible, and letting my co-workers know my kids. That's very hand wavy and touchy feely, but the more it feels like one whole life, the better I feel about it.
Also, this has helped.
Hello Charles! :)
Here are my thoughts on brainstorming. That might answer most of your question, but for the other part, let me turn it around. Which great product ideas came from group brainstorms? I don't know of any (which doesn't mean there aren't any...)
Check out this awesome post about a 1 person design sprint. So it's totally doable on your own, but it's harder (at least it would be for me) because there's no peer pressure to keep you going.
Sprints could totally be effective just with other designers—we've done this while working on gv.com—but just be sure you're involving anyone who will actually be working on/building the site (when we did it, Braden and John and Daniel were actually writing the code as well, so we actually were the whole team even though we were all designers)
Running sprints remotely is tough, so if you come up with a great method, please share it. :) The best bet is to only involve remote participants for "ask the experts". If you're going to have remote participants as core team members, you might try Mural, which I've heard good things about. Also try having a multi-person video call where one web cam is just trained on the whiteboards in the main sprint room.
I'll be honest, I don't have a great answer. I've never worked at an agency before, so it's not an area of expertise. You might find this article interesting though.
That's a tough situation. You'll find it easiest if you can continually remind the team and Decider before the sprint and during the sprint that the point is to learn, not to spec out the solution—and that the sprint might end in failure, and that will be a really valuable learning. When that framing is there, the disappointment won't disappear, but it'll be easier to manage.
Give em a copy of our book! :) Seriously though, some arguments that engineers often appreciate are:
I was not previously aware. :) But generally when the name Jake is involved, I am favorably inclined.
Thanks Jonathan, so glad you like the book!
1&2. I'll wrap the agency answer into one, because while many agencies (like Dynamo, Wieden+Kennedy, and frog design) have used sprints, I am not an expert on agencies. So instead I'll share this post about sprints at design agencies written by my colleague Daniel Burka.
Great question Lee. My answer is a bit simplistic, but hopefully helpful... you should rely on the Decider to make this decision. I usually encourage teams to be aggressive and risk-taking with their solutions, but at the same time to only propose solutions that they actually believe could be built and delivered.
That might sound contradictory, but there's a difference between being aggressive and taking risks and being impractical, "dreamy", or "blue sky". When I'm facilitating I want the pragmatists to be uncomfortably aggressive—but still pragmatic. And I want the dreamers to be uncomfortably focused on feasibility—but still aggressive. Hopefully that makes sense.
In the end though, as I mentioned above, it's up to the Decider to find the right balance. As facilitator, I can encourage her to think in this aggressive-and-feasible mode, but she's the only one with the expertise and authority to really decide what that looks like.
Hope that helps!
Hey Ricky! I just wrote you the longest reply and my browser crashed. So here's the pithy-ish version:
Thanks man! I think it's useful for a young design team to have a recipe for working with the rest of the company—with non-designers. I also think the techniques for critique, sketching, mapping, interviewing can be helpful for young designers.
Congratulations! I wouldn't describe anything I do as stellar. But I do feel like I get really good time with my kids. Sprints and batching my meetings helps—I can feel satisfied after a full day, I can put work down more easily and be attentive to my kids if I know I focused on the right stuff and made progress. Saying no is important too, but that's really difficult... kind of a lifelong struggle, I think.
Honestly I've only ever thought in about a 1-2 year time frame, and for me, that's the way to go. It might bite me of course! But it also has helped me avoid longer term goals that might be brittle and might (I'm afraid) not be truly satisfying when I finally get there. Instead I try to regularly evaluate what's going on right now, how the environment and opportunities have changed, and figure out what work I should make for myself.
Hey Max, thanks for having me!
Writing the book was fun. I think we were all surprised by how much better we understood sprints after writing the book than before. Also, it is really surprising how many rounds of editing, copyediting, and review there are. It's good, because people kept catching mistakes!
I don't know... It's so important for the real team to be involved in sprint, so they deeply understand and agree with what they're building afterward.
Honestly in the beginning I only thought of it working for consumer software, because that's what I knew well, and I knew we could solve those problems and build those prototypes fast. So everything else that's happened—medical products, hardware, services, enterprise products, offices, etc. has been a surprise. Two stories that really delighted me were a sprint used to design a card game and a sprint used by high school English students studying Hamlet.
Life science/health care. It's obviously important, and it's also exceptionally challenging because there's so much knowledge to boot up. That's really fun.
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