5 sprint lessons

Self-tests on innovation tools

Part 1: Eight crazy presentations in 3 minutes. And what innovation guys can learn from supply chain people. Maybe vice versa, too.

Just a quick post today, because I’m right in the middle of a SPRINT. No, not the Olympic kind. And not the SCRUM version either. But a highspeed innovation concept that is quite the show-stopper at the moment. Well, at least for me and our team at AEB.

We’re actually working with SPRINT to solve a communication challenge we’re facing. Which one? Stay tuned, you will hear and see from AEB’s new look in the upcoming months… But for now, I want to give you some brief insights. Why does this matter to you in logistics and global trade? Step up to the plate – there are a lot of lessons to be learned – on both our sides.

Basic idea of SPRINT: speed is a value in itself

SPRINT was developed by some guys at GV (formerly Google Ventures). Maybe you’re a bit tired of hearing “innovation” and “Google” in one sentence. So am I, but the promise on the book’s cover was so appealing that I gave it a try back in December when I came across it.

Yes, we also lol-ed at first when we looked at this promise. Just five days! But after two days into the action, we now believe we can actually make it.

My first lesson

… is probably not new for logistic experts: Speed is not everything, but as a lame duck, there is nothing you can deliver.

We knew this, too, but still: we lost five months in our project and had to ask ourselves: Why?

My second lesson

It’s all about getting started. Or there shall be no end at all?

We lost time because we struggled to identify the right “problem”: How can we communicate a revolutionary new approach to enterprise software for the specific needs of global trade and supply chain management – in an era shaped by individuality, bi-modal IT, and high-speed-volatility? Aha! For the answer, as I said: Stay tuned ;-).

But what matters here is this: We really needed to free ourselves from the constraints of everyday business and find a timeslot where all seven team members could commit themselves to working five days in a row – fully dedicated – on the project.

Ahh, sorry, didn’t I mention that the perfect number of team members for SPRINT is seven? OK, perhaps it’s a good time for a fast introduction of SPRINT: take a look at this 1.5-minutes video:

My third lesson

It’s all about the right mix between methodology, pressure, and focus.

After the first day with the new approach, we all still felt a bit uncomfortable. Will this really work? None of us were looking forward to day two: We were all asked to first research ideas and then present new impulses to the other team members in just three minutes. Not too keen on this outlook, my colleague Steffen (this one) was (as usual) faster than me to address the burning question: do we really need to stick to all the SPRINT processes?

But Katharina, our SPRINT anchorwoman, just smiled in a zen-way and nodded slowly but assertive: Yes. Next one please, three minutes starting now. And believe it or not, we ended up with a white board full of great ideas – see for yourself.

From then on, we really started believing in the SPRINT process. Even when Katharina presented the next speed tool. It’s not only called ‘crazy eight’, it is crazy, too.

The task: Find the best solution for your most important problem. You get one minute to deliver. Yes, only one. And then stop: Find a better solution in yet another minute. And yes: Repeat the whole thing six times.

So, does this work? Ahh, just try it! For us, the very best ideas came up in the second round. So sometimes you must break the rules by sticking to a (new?) process… Doesn’t that sound familiar, SCM-folks?

My forth lesson

If the customer doesn’t get it, you didn’t get the job done.

Now, today, starting into day three, it feels uncomfortable again. Not because we don’t believe in the process (or in Katharina’s willingness to stick to it ;-). But because we know that day five is coming up. The day of the truth – the day we will test our prototype on real customers…

When was the last time you felt the pressure of only three days standing between you and the merciless judgement of the real end customer? Ahh, wait a minute. You are all supply chain people? Sorry, I forgot: You’re facing such challenges everyday ;-). For me, it’s still nerve-wracking.

Perhaps you can compare it to long-term strategies, initiatives, or projects you work on in logistics and global trade. And I ask the question again: When was the last time you put the pencil down and started from scratch in a major project? When you knew that within 3 days you’d need to go live and would get direct feedback from the market?

My fifth lesson

It ain’t over till it’s over.

And with this, I will need to ask you to give me another two days to come to my conclusion. We’re right in the middle of SPRINT! Our five days are not over. And I must urgently get back to it. In fact, our SPRINT anchorwoman is about to tell me off because during SPRINT, there is one important rule: No electronic devices…

P.S. I look forward to your views and comments, on XING, or LinkedIn – I will check them later though…