Mastering the Design Sprint is Product Management

Jay Melone, Partner at New Haircut, shares how design sprints can help product teams validate ideas in just five days and what product leaders must do before, during and after a design sprint to ensure it’s successful. 

The most common answer to the question, “What’s a recurring product management nightmare I have”, which I ask every interviewee to answer during “The Benchmark” at the end of each episode, is some variation of building a product that customers don’t actually want.  

When companies apply the “traditional” approach to market research and product development, building a product customers don’t actually want can cost years and millions of dollars.

Design sprints help compress that process into just five days with minimal cost. Furthermore, design sprints can help product teams align stakeholders across their organizations and gain meaningful customer insights that lead to better products.

In this week’s episode, Jay shares the best practices for running design sprints that he’s learned from working with companies including Johnson & Johnson, Coach and XO Group.

I started by asking Jay about the origins of design sprints and what they entail. Jake Knapp, who eventually wrote the book, “Sprint”, began running design sprints at Google to shortcut internal debates and compress months of research and development time into a single week. He then brought sprints to Google Ventures to help the companies they had invested in. 

Jay describes why more companies are now running design sprints:

“Most companies are used to spending months and sometimes millions of dollars to get to the point where they understand that the thing that they were interested in building is not worth building. The design sprint is really interesting to corporations because they’re looking at this as a tool that can shrink those extravagant budgets and timelines inside of something that could be five days.”

Jay goes on to share his best advice for getting stakeholders to buy-in to running design sprints and continuing to fund an idea after the week is over. Here are the highlights:

  • Jay describes what happens during each of the five days of a design sprint (6:30)
  • How product leaders should facilitate design sprints (15:45)
  • Jay’s advice for preparing for a design sprint (20:00)
  • The most common mistakes companies make when running design sprints (23:05)
  • How to ensure good products continue to develop after a sprint (25:10) 

Listen on iTunes, Stitcher or SoundCloud below.