5 days – is it possible to complete every project in this time?

Five days, that is one hundred and twenty hours – this is the time you need to complete virtually any project and, in more detail, turn the idea into an operating, often sales-generating, prototype. This is not a tale or wishful thinking. Three specialists working for the largest corporations in the world have proved that this is actually possible. These three men are Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz. What is the recipe for success? This is a method of 5-day sprint, which can be applied practically in any enterprise.

From e-shopping to robotics

Two exemplary projects at which the solution called “5-day sprint” was used are:

  1. development of a website and internet shop for a well-known coffee brand Blue Bottle Coffee;
  2. creation of a robot used in hotel, service and medical industry. Namely, the Relay robot manufactured by Savioke. You can find out more about this robot and project here.

As you can see, these are very different tasks and industries. This method worked in both cases. The website in a beta version was ready in 5 days, but what really matters is the fact that information about coffee, its drinking rituals, etc. were revealed during the sprint. The robot was ready to perform the first tasks in three weeks after the sprint. So, how do these 5 days correspond to those few weeks or months? The aim of sprint is to find the final solutions as quickly as possible, even if it requires extra work at a later stage. Sprints of this type enable the team to see the ready product and clients’ response to it.  It is not necessary to undertake costly investments, contribute a lot of money, lose tons of time and only later see that the idea sucks and clients will not accept it.

Power of 5-day projects

Each such action consists of five stages, out of which each is assigned to one day:

  1. Monday – creation of a project map and goal selection – a map can be e.g. a website layout and the goal – online sales of coffee;
  2. Tuesday – development of professional, competitive solutions – it can turn out that the first idea is not the best one, so we can find an alternative solution;
  3. Wednesday – brainstorming and selection of the option which allows for optimum achievement of goals set on Monday;
  4. Thursday – creation of a realistic prototype – it does not have to be the entire website, complete product, complete service: it is just about the functionality that is most important to us. In case of the Relay robot, it was a driving model with a display and installed camera so that clients’ reactions could be registered;
  5. Friday – prototype tests among target clients, i.e. nothing else, but reaching out to our target group and showing them its operation. Here, it is important to collect feedback and analyse it. This day is a real “to be or not to be” for a project. It can turn out that our assumptions were wrong and the prototype just did not meet the client’s expectations. What do we gain? We save money and implementation time. The incurred costs entail work of maximum 7 persons who participate in the sprint + materials which can be necessary for creation of the beta version.

How to build a team?

An optimum team consists of 7 persons. This includes:

  1. a decision-making person – president, company founder, somebody who can take the most important implementation decisions;
  2. expert for financial matters – somebody who can explain how to finance the consecutive stages, from where to source money, etc.: it can be e.g. the financial director;
  3. marketing specialist – somebody who can sell the idea further, at the same time giving it personality traits which are consistent with the message and mission of the company;
  4. customer specialist – somebody who knows our clients, knows who are the target persons and what are the target segments;
  5. logistics and technology expert – somebody who can easily handle the technical issues and will find necessary solutions;
  6. project specialist – somebody who created or creates other company products, who understands the philosophy and method of their creation.

What matters is the regularity and rules, not the time

The 5-day sprint turns a typical working day in many companies upside down. We get concrete project blocks instead of wasting time on yet another meeting, e-mail, phone call. According to Knapp, each working day should last from 10:00 to 17:00, including one hour for a lunch break and a short coffee breaks. A typical project sprint actually means six hours of active work. “Starting at 10:00, we give each person time to check their e-mails and find out what is going on, before the day starts”. However, something else is actually the most important in the entire process. Namely, the rule of leaving other activities. In order to conduct and complete the project in this period of time, each morning, all team members switch off their phones and cut themselves off from everyday distractions. There is not the time for e-mails and Facebook. There is only the project. There are two exceptions to this rule. Breaks are for us and then we can use all the devices. If it is really necessary to answer the phone, it must be done outside the meeting place. Additionally, in order to start work, we may need whiteboards, markers and a lot of space for extra notes.

It is worth reading about the course of sprints in the book written by Knapp and his colleagues. It shows, step by step, the consecutive stages of action and includes many great examples of successful implementations which were born during this type of meetings. It really does work. This way, you can implement a new product to the market, improve the client support quality, find alternative solutions for the current state of affairs in the company. 5-day projects have the right to exist if we stick to the rules. It is worth to give it a go.

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