Have you ever spent weeks coming up with a foolproof plan, only to see it all fall apart when it came time to deliver? You knew exactly what you wanted to achieve and what you needed to do to get it done, but somehow you and your team weren’t quite able to pull it all together when it really mattered. What went wrong?
No need to be embarrassed – I’ve seen this happen so many times in my career! The truth is, many business owners are great at making plans, but they really struggle when it comes to execution. The reason for this is usually that they don’t have a proper project management strategy in place.
Team members might know their own responsibilities, but their work is siloed from each other and nobody communicates. You hold check-ins once a week, but the meetings lack focus and have no clear deliverables. Everyone’s working towards a single vaguely defined goal that won’t come due until weeks or months into the future, and so it’s easy to put things off or hide from difficult tasks.
Under these circumstances, it’s no wonder projects tend to drift, ending up late and over budget. What’s the solution? Well, if you’re consistently finding yourself late to the finish line, the obvious answer is to up the pace. In fact, maybe it’s time you started Sprinting!
A sprint is a short working cycle lasting just a few weeks, where you and your team use agile project management strategies to focus on achieving a set of concrete short-term goals. Rather than building up towards realising one big final outcome (which is how traditional project management strategies work) sprints aim to regularly deliver incremental value over an extended period.
Sprints are still a relatively new methodology which has migrated from the tech/software space to the wider business world, but it’s spreading rapidly. I’ve seen it applied to great effect in sectors as diverse as restaurants, fitness, salons and coaching! It brings focus, clarity, and transparency to your team, and helps you align planning and execution so your vision can be delivered as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
So, what makes for a successful sprint? Let’s break it down, so you can start thinking about how you can apply this methodology in your business.
What are the ingredients of a successful sprint?
First question – how long is a sprint? Well, it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. The point is to break your larger processes down so that value can be delivered in short, regular bursts, but the sprint still needs to be long enough for you and your team to achieve something meaningful. You’re looking for a task that you can complete from start to finish, so bear that in mind when you’re making your plans.
Let’s say the goal of your sprint is to roll out a new website, and you’re giving yourself two weeks to get it done. The next step is to break down all the tasks that need to be completed to fulfil that goal, and to dole them out to the relevant members of the team. Everyone needs to have a clear understanding of the role they will play in achieving your shared goal, the “Definition of Done” or “DoD” which lets each team member know exactly what’s required of them.
To be fully effective, a DoD must be specific and measurable – so, rather than “finish writing website copy”, it should be something like, “submit home page website copy for proofing that includes the following sections (enter detail)”. This way, everyone on the team has complete transparency as to what’s expected of them during the period of the sprint.
A crucial but sometimes under appreciated element of a successful sprint is regular reporting or meetings. The purpose of these check-ins is to surface any roadblocks that team members may have run into while trying to achieve their DoD. This way, instead of getting stuck or putting off a task for later, they’re encouraged to share their problems with the team, source a solution, and keep driving towards the common goal.
How to organise a sprint
Traditionally, most sprints are structured around a Kanban board. A Kanban is divided into columns which indicate whether a job is on the backlog, to-do list, currently being worked on, needs review, or is finished. At any given moment, this lets the whole team see an overview of how the sprint is going, and what is needed to bring it closer to completion. Tasks move from left to right as they are completed, until, hopefully, the right-most column is filled with finished jobs, and all the rest are empty!
Once the sprint has been completed, it’s essential to hold a team retrospective, where you look back on the process in search of Kaizen – a Japanese word meaning “continuous improvement”. These are insights into what could have been done to make the sprint go smoother or faster. Make sure these are all properly documented, ready to be put to work when you start your next sprint!
What problems do sprints solve?
Delegation – Many business owners complain that they can’t delegate because only they know how to handle the key tasks in their business. Often, though, the problem is that their expectations haven’t been clearly communicated to their team. Sprints provide a clear structure for accountability when delegating important jobs.
Prioritisation – By breaking jobs down into bite-sized pieces, sprints make it easier to ensure that the most important things are taken care of first, and that jobs are done in the right order. No more waiting around because another team member has fallen behind on a vital task!
Siloing – By encouraging everyone to agree on what the Definition of Done looks like, both for themselves and their colleagues, sprints bring transparency to your team. People can see how their different roles mesh together and understand how their work is contributing to the common goal.
This is just the tip of the iceberg! There are so many other benefits that a well-organised sprint can bring to your business. If you think you might be ready to give it a go, book a call with us today! We’ll talk you through everything you need to do to start achieving your goals faster, smoother, and with greater clarity and buy-in for your team.