Design Sprints are transforming how the most progressive companies are taking their ideas are turning them into reality. A well run sprint will build team-wide understanding of a problem, sketch out solutions, take decisions on the best solution, turn it into a prototype and test it with customers.

Oh, and you’ll do it in only five days!

But once you’ve taken the decision to run a sprint, you’ll need to make sure you have a balanced team around you with the right mix of skills and personalities, if it’s going to be a success.

So what does the ideal design sprint team look like?

In the book SPRINT (you and your team should read it) by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz, they describe Ocean Eleven’s “perfectly orchestrated heist” as the best example of a team coming together to overcome a mega challenge.

Assembling the right team though, is tricky. Sprint teams need to be small and agile by nature and the right or wrong person can either add, or just as easily detract from the value of the outcome.

Sprinters aren’t the only roles in play here either, it’s just as important to have users – people who can test and validate products. And projects will often live and die based on the quality and insight those individuals bring to the table.

So how, and who do you choose?

The Decider

While this sounds like the name of an infamous warlord, the Decider carries the greatest level of responsibility. Deciders should be client-side individuals with the authority to make decisions on behalf of the business.

They need to know the business inside and out and be able to balance the needs of the business with what can feasibly be built within the time window and using the available tools.

If there is any point in the sprint when the team cannot decide on which direction to take the new product or service, then the Decider has the final say.


“Have decision makers in the room.”



Involving a Troublemaker isn’t just a case of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. It will really benefit your team if you can identify and include someone who will do and say the things that others wouldn’t. Someone who will dare to say ‘no’ when it appears everyone else is in agreement.

Troublemakers will add value to the sprint because they’ll be brave enough to present thoughtful confident solutions that others might hesitate to put on the table.


“That smart person with strong, contrary opinions”



More than just Experts – get users, people at the coal face. They’ll be able to give you genuine insight about what your customers will want and need, which means the product you create will be relevant to the people who will use it.

You’ll need Experts that understand every segment or touch point of your business. Subject matter gurus with strong opinions about how your product or service needs to look and feel, and what it needs to achieve.


A large group of users doesn’t need to be involved every day, but it is important that at the end of every sprint you sense-check what has been built with users, or Testers, who weren’t in the room when decisions were made.

Make sure you get those Testers tied down early, so they can trial the product of the sprint and provide critical feedback and input at the end of the week. Quality and proactivity are key traits here – you want individuals who are open to change, but with an eye for detail.


“Communication is the key to progress.”


With these key positions in place, now is a good time to consider whether you should bring in outside help.

Facilitator (& Note taker)

Of all the roles on the team, the Facilitator has the biggest load to carry and is the one role where Rainmaker gets asked to help out most.

Facilitators provide the challenge and then constructively lead the team through the week’s activities. In a Scrum framework, this person would be the Scrum Master.

This role is essential and will be an administrative person – someone that runs and arranges meetings and helps unblock teams. This might be by facilitating conversations with other teams, or by solving problems themselves, but this person is the connector, they are the blockade remover – and they will run all of your meetings.

It can sometimes be useful to have a second facilitator, particularly if the sprint team is on the larger side. In these cases, the second Facilitator will help run each activity as well as capture the days’ activities and ensure that they are recorded and shared with the rest of the team.

The Designers

At the opposite end of the spectrum for scary, dictator-sounding names, having a skilful Designer is key. When designing services this is likely to be a service designer, to ensure the service created resolves user pains.

Whoever is chosen, they also need to be skilled in interaction design, so they can bring the service to life in a prototype.

The ability to rapidly prototype solutions will allow you to evolve your products and services quickly. Using wireframes and mockups, users get to see and feel how products and services will perform, they can visualise their ideas, make them ‘real’ – and most importantly, they can be tested.

The Engineer

If projects are highly technical, it’s also vital to involve an Engineer. In partnership with the Designer, they can build out the more technical elements of the product or service and help make sure that what is designed is technically possible.

They help the team validate the cost and complexities involved in building out the desired product or service.


“The bigger the challenge, the better the sprint.”


Design sprints require a commitment from everyone in your team. And it’s so important to bring together the right people, rather just those who are immediately available. The sprint is a demanding week, and schedules need to be cleared. But with the right team, fully committed, sprints are incredibly powerful.

In SPRINT, Google Ventures recommends a team no larger than 7. We agree.

If the team is too large you’ll have too many cooks. That is why it is so important that all 7 people have different skill sets and priorities as it ensures the service design is not only better but also more likely to be adopted.

You’d be amazed what can be achieved by a small team in only five days. What’s stopping you?

Tom Millbrow is an expert in design sprints and director of Rainmaker’s Lightning Lab. @thomasmillbrow

If you would like to delve into more detail about Design Sprints, please check out:

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