Design sprints in agile teams

In Agile, design sprints are crucial for product success as they guide development and highlight areas for improvement. Agile teams, known for thriving in dynamic, fast-paced environments, are able to pivot quickly in response to market or customer changes. However, the challenge lies in obtaining high-quality feedback in a timely manner.

Design sprints offer an innovative solution. This proven methodology solves problems through design, prototyping, and user testing. It aligns teams under a shared vision. Clear goals and deliverables are established. Design sprints allow hypothesis creation, idea prototyping, and rapid testing. All these occur with minimal investment in a realistic environment.

Success is not always easily achieved. Designing a prototype, building a minimum viable product (MVP), and iterating on that MVP is challenging. Especially in the South African market, practical application of agile methodologies often diverges from the ideal. Other usability testing methods like gorilla testing and facilitated usability testing exist. However, these methods often fall short of design sprints in effectiveness. They struggle particularly with obtaining qualitative feedback within an agile sprint’s tight time constraints.

Design sprints are not a panacea for all challenges, but they are close. The methodology is flexible and adaptable to a team or project’s specific needs. Numerous design sprint variations exist. Each can be tailored to align with the team’s work style and the structure of their agile sprints. These design sprint variations can be tweaked and adjusted. They accommodate varying time constraints and the availability of key stakeholders, ensuring a fit-for-purpose approach to problem-solving and product development.

What is the design sprint?

Design Sprint Roadmap

A proven methodology, the Design Sprint, is used for problem-solving. It involves designing, prototyping, and testing ideas. Teams are quickly aligned under a shared vision. Goals and deliverables are clearly defined. A hypothesis is developed, an idea is prototyped, and testing is done rapidly. Minimal investment is used in a realistic environment.

The 5-day design sprint

Most user-centered product design teams in the South African market widely use the original 5-day design sprint methodology. It serves as an instrumental tool in shaping the design process, yet it often demands a significant amount of time. This time requirement makes it difficult to integrate it into the 1-2 week agile sprint structures commonly used in product design.

To address this time constraint, Jake Knapp and Jonathan Courtney from AJ&Smart modified the existing 5-day sprint into a more condensed, yet equally effective, 4-day design sprint. Teams refer to this revised methodology as Design Sprint 2.0. It not only saves time, but also seamlessly integrates with some agile teams.

Despite the reduction in time, Design Sprint 2.0 may still seem too lengthy for the majority of the agile teams running on 1-2 week agile sprints. However, teams of any size can effectively use Design Sprint 2.0, especially when seeking to answer challenging questions in their design process.

Design Sprint 2.0 fosters an environment that promotes a deeper understanding of the solution. It allows teams to spend more time unpacking and understanding the solution, thereby enhancing the overall design process.

5 Day Design Sprint

The 3-day design sprint

I have personally facilitated and tested the 3-day design sprint, a condensed and highly adaptive version of the traditional design sprints, within a 2-week agile sprint. In my experience, these 3-day design sprints have effectively addressed usability questions and provided ample detail for creating actionable next steps for product development.

It’s important to remember that meticulous planning and full support from all stakeholders heavily influence these design sprints’ success. In fact, these sprints require pulling people away from their usual routines and dedicating one to three full days to intensive brainstorming and problem-solving.

Initially developed for product innovation, design sprints now have a wide range of applications. They have solved a plethora of challenges, from product development issues to organizational problems.

Most renowned for its ability to infuse speed and innovation into the product development process, the design sprint methodology’s utility extends beyond this realm. It can effectively develop new processes, rejuvenate or revamp a brand, or even define an organization’s strategy and its potential impact in the market.

3 Day Design Sprint


Design sprints have proven to be an invaluable tool for teams striving to swiftly and effectively procure customer feedback. These intensive, time-constrained sessions of design, prototyping, and testing enable teams to fast-track product development, instantly incorporating feedback from real users. Teams can customize the different variations of design sprints to align with their unique requirements, ensuring that they garner high-caliber feedback without compromising the speed and agility essential for thriving in the fast-paced, ever-evolving market of today.

Running design sprints within agile teams combines the benefits of two powerful methodologies. The agility allows for rapid iterations and improvements, while the sprint structure ensures a focus on user experience and feedback. However, the effectiveness of these sprints can greatly depend on the specific adaptations the team makes to the format to fit their needs.

Therefore, if your team is utilizing design sprints in an agile environment, we are eager to learn about your experiences. Which version of the design sprint do you find most beneficial? How have you tailored the process to suit your specific needs? Do you have any unique tips or methods that you have found particularly effective? Please share your insights in the comments below. Our community is always looking for new ways to refine and improve our processes, and we value your input.

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Varima Henry

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