Design Sprint Facilitation Tips.

By Jeremy King

A workshop can be exceptionally enjoyable and rewarding. Equally, with the wrong facilitator leading the group, workshops can be draining. After running multiple Design Sprints in and around Milton Keynes, we've put together a list of observations and learnings to make sure you nail your next event.

Facilitation is making an action or process easier or less difficult; assisting the progress of a project, team or person.

Believe in the process and stick to the plan.

Brilliant minds came up with the Design Sprint and big brands all over the World have used them thousands of times over. Make sure you know the process inside and out, familiarise yourself with every exercise, and keep a checklist handy to keep yourself on track.

To keep things moving steadily along, keep one eye on the clock. Every exercise has a recommended time limit, which you'll thank yourself for sticking to at the end of the day.

Let your group shine.

As a facilitator you are by no means the star of the show, which is great! Leave your ego at the door and embrace the important role of enabling the group to solve problems themselves. Your job is to ask thought provoking questions, gather information and guide the group through the process.

Although you're taking a slight back seat, it's vital that you approach the exercises with enthusiasm and excitement as the group will really feed off your energy. If you lack gusto, so will the participants.

Explain the process.

For anyone new to Design Sprints, the process can be intimidating. Non-designers worry they can't draw, and teams used to working a certain way might find some exercises a bit daunting. If everyone understands the goal of the day, collective buy-in is much easier to obtain.

Make sure that each exercise is totally clear and that everybody understands what you expect of them. Sometimes a simple question, "is that ok?", gives participants the opportunity to raise questions or concerns before you begin.

Break the ice (or the spaghetti).

Design Sprints are a creative process and quite often kick-off on a Monday morning. Although we don't recommend cheesy "businessy" ice breakers, a creative challenge can warm up those creative muscles.

Sugar is not your friend.

A 4-day Design Sprint is like a marathon; exhausting but a rush when you get over the finish line. To keep you and your group energised, without the dreaded sugar crash, have healthy snacks at hand with lots and lots of water.

On that note, give everyone frequent breaks! You don’t want people to be thinking about the next toilet break while they’re mid-exercise.

Dealing with push-back.

We've been really lucky with exceptionally enthusiastic and competent participants in our Design Sprints over the years but what do you do if there's a disruptive member in the group?

The first thing to note is that passionate debates are welcomed. Sometimes you need a character with an opposing view to enable the group to see a challenge from another perspective. The problems come when these debates take you over the allotted time for an exercise or when one character starts to take over every discussion. This is where the facilitator plays a key part. Use the timings to your advantage with phrases such as, "this is a really great discussion but I am conscious of time. I'll make a note, let's pause there and come back to it later".

If debates are taking over your Sprint, utilise your decider and ask them to make the final decision so you can all move on together.

If someone has specific doubts about a certain exercise, encourage them to see the process through to the end. Some of the biggest leaps are made in the final moments of each day.

The most important thing... Have fun!

The best workshops we've ran have been fuelled by innovative concepts, thought provoking discussions and most of all, fantastic participants. Don't worry about every detail being perfect. Trust in the process, and in your group and the results will follow.

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