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Let’s face it: online meetings can be awkward, especially when you don’t know anyone in the video call. You might still be waking up with your first cup of coffee while someone else is bouncing with energy in a later time zone.

Laïla von Alvensleben

in best practices, remote teams,

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Workshop Recap: Running Remote Design Sprints

Since the launch of the Google Ventures book, Sprint, companies around the world have been relying on design sprints to create new products and services.

Sprints are concentrated bursts of collaboration focused on a specific design challenge, often overcoming project inertia. Design sprints traditionally include seven to ten people who collaborate in-person for a week. Just scheduling a time to meet can be challenging, not to mention the time and cost of travel to get together. But what’s the alternative?

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We believe that remote design sprints are not only feasible, but viable alternatives to in-person sessions. To demonstrate that remote teams can run design sprints, Jay Melone of New Haircut and Jim Kalbach of MURAL have teamed up to teach a course on the principles and tactics needed for success.  

On Thursday August 23, twelve participants joined the hosts in a 3½ hour long session. The goal wasn’t to run a design sprint in full, but to practice some of the techniques needed for team interaction. The participants dialed in individual across nine time zones, from Europe to California.

Prior to the session, we asked the group to complete pre-work. They introduced themselves in images and reacted to some reading material. Preparation is key to successful remote sprints: strive to do as much work as you can before the session begins to maximize your together time.

After an introduction of the session and some background on both design sprints and remote workshops, the group split into two breakout groups. We used the breakout room feature on the Zoom conference software to split up the groups. As with in-person sessions, smaller groups are best. With webcams on, we were able to have a lively, interactive conversation with each other.

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The two teams completed some key activities from the initial phases of a design sprint. After agreeing on a long term goal, each group generated sprint questions to be addressed. Then, they were asked to create a simple journey map for the persona in our scenario and indicate the single, biggest pain point in the flow.

We used MURAL as the platform for visual collaboration so everyone could follow along. The steps of the exercises were broken down into very short chunks: 10 minutes, 5 minutes, and at times, even 2 minute intervals. We used the built-in timer in MURAL to keep the collaboration on track.

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After a short break, each group them sketched solutions. Some used pen and paper, and then uploaded an image of their offline drawing. Others used digital tools to represent their concepts in a sequence of steps or screens. In the end, we had a gallery of concepts that the team was able to evaluate and decide on a direction.

updated RDS

Before they knew it, we were at the end of the session. There was a healthy discussion and reflection on remote design sprints. The conclusion was clear: though not without challenges, remote design sprints are totally possible!

One participant commented, “Time flew by. It didn’t even feel like a 3+ hours. I could have gone on longer.” Another said, “I liked the prework to get people using the software beforehand. I am a fan of the readings as well.” Yet another highlighted, “I liked the simple, practical tips to make running a remote sprint more engaging.”

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At MURAL we are committed to making remote workshops a reality. We offer courses on facilitation, design sprints and more.

Contact us if you’re interested in having us run a course for you at your company: jim@mural.co.  

Also, check out our latest ebook, Facilitating Remote Workshops.

Jim Kalbach

Jim Kalbach

Jim Kalbach is a noted author, speaker, and instructor in customer experience, experience design, digital transformation, and strategy.

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