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Sprint by Jake Knapp – Book Notes, Summary, Review

Sprint by Jake Knapp – Book Notes, Summary, Review - Cover Image

Published: January 08, 2021

Reading Time: 12 min


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Running a sprint is an excellent way to test out a solution to a problem without sinking lots of time and money into it.

In the world of agile software development, many people may be familiar with the concept of sprints but may not understand them fully.

As someone in this position, I knew about sprints but wanted to learn much more about the intricacies of them and how to fully run one from start to finish.

Reading this book provided me with a clearer understanding of the sprint process and a renewed motivation to run sprints more successfully in the future.

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Who Should Read This Book?

I would highly recommend this book to anyone in the field of software development and web development. You may already be familiar with the term Agile and Sprint but this book does an excellent job of outlining the whole process and it includes useful checklists to help you during your own sprints.

This book may not be as useful for someone like a knowledge worker/content creator but if this idea does sound appealing to you this is the best book to explain the concept of a sprint and how to run one.

How This Book Changed Me

Although I was familiar with the concept of a sprint before reading this book, I really feel as though I’ve learned a lot about sprints from reading this book. Everything was spelled out clearly and the use of real-life examples and anecdotes made me understand and remember the concepts much better.

I am encouraged to try and apply this methodology to my “day job” to see if we can produce better outputs. We do follow the agile/sprint methodology where I work, but it seems as though there are some aspects where we may be lacking so that would be good to address.

I have also been playing around with the idea of solo sprints which are technically possible. I’d like to distill what I’ve learned from this book to carry out some solo sprints to see what results from them.

This is certainly more of a process-driven book with step by step how to’s. With that in mind, it makes a good book to use as a reference after you’ve read it rather than simply extracting one or two bits of helpful information.

The book sort of petered out at the end once the sprint has finished. There’s not a lot of concrete action items for what to do next aside from, you’ll know based on what you’ve discovered. It would have been helpful to get that extra bit of detail but aside from that this was still a well put together and helpful book.

My Top 3 Quotes That Resonated With Me

“A sprint is your chance to check the navigation charts and steer in the right direction before going full steam ahead”

Sprint – Page 36

“That’s one of the best aspects of a sprint: It gives you an excuse to work the way you want to work, with a clear calendar and one important goal to address”

Sprint – Page 49

“A sprint room, plastered with notes, diagrams, printouts, and more, takes advantage of that spatial memory. The room itself becomes a sort of shared brain for the team”

Sprint – Page 55

Book Notes

Set The Stage


A sprint is your chance to try something out and see if you’re going in the right direction before charging into something at full speed.

Sprints are built for speed and can be done over the course of 5 days.

A sprint can provide a fresh approach to problem-solving that can be motivating.

Get the surface of a product or service right and you’ll be able to work backward if it is well received by your customers.


Sprint Team Size

  • The ideal size for a sprint is 7 people or less
  • include a mix of people – those who work on execution as well as those with specialized knowledge e.g. designers, product managers, developers, engineers, etc.
  • Finance expert, customer expert, tech expert, design expert
  • Troublemakers see problems differently from everyone else – this will push everyone to do better work
  • If you need more than 7 people schedule them for Monday afternoon only.

The Decider

  • The official decision-maker
  • They generally understand the problem and have strong opinions to help find the right solution
  • Can be a CEO, VP, Product manager, etc.
  • They must be involved in the sprint – if they can’t be fully involved consider having 2 deciders

A Facilitator

  • They are responsible for managing time, conversations, and the process overall.
  • They need to remain unbiased and be good at communicating when it’s time to move on to the next thing.
  • Sometimes it’s a good idea to bring in someone outside of the team to be the facilitator.

Time And Space

It takes an average of 23 minutes for distracted workers to return to their tasks.

A week-long sprint will start at 10 am and end at 5 pm with an hour-long lunch break. (Friday = 9am to 5pm)

5 days gives enough urgency to ensure a sharp focus without leading to exhaustion.

The sprint room should be free from electronic devices like phones and laptops to prevent distractions. It’s OK to check them during a break but you have to go outside the sprint room to do it.

A sprint room full of notes and diagrams takes advantage of our spatial memory. It becomes like a shared brain for the team.

Whiteboards are a great way to make note of things – you’ll need at least 2

Ensure you have plenty of supplies: sticky notes, markers, paper, and pens

Ideally, you should use the same sprint room for the entire week.


Start At The End

The entire first day is devoted to planning.

Your job is to assemble all knowledge and expertise.

Set a long term goal:

  • Why are we doing this project? Where do we want to be in six months / a year from now?
  • Write your goal on the top of the whiteboard – it will stay here throughout the course of the sprint to keep everyone on track.

List sprint questions:

  • What questions do we want to answer in this sprint?
  • To meet our long-term goal what has to be true?
  • Now ask what could cause it to fail, what could go wrong. This helps to guide your solutions and decisions throughout the sprint.
  • Rephrase any assumptions into questions – this makes them easier to track and easier to answer.
  • It also creates a shift from uncertainty to curiosity.


In a sprint, a map keeps track of how everything fits together.

It should be simple but include the major steps required for customers to move from beginning to completion.

  1. A map is customer-centric, with a list of key actors on the left. In most cases, the actors are different kinds of customers.
  2. Write the ending on the right.
  3. Use words and arrows in between to tell the story simply and concisely (around 5 to 15 steps).

Ask The Experts

A series of one at a time interviews with experts on your team that have special knowledge

Nobody knows everything so it’s important to consult across the team and the company.

  • Strategy – What will make this project a success? What’s the biggest risk?
  • Voice of the customer – who talks to the customer and can explain the world from their perspective?
  • How things work – who are the people building your product – the designer, engineer, marketer
  • Previous efforts – has this problem already been thought about?

Allow 30 mins for each interview

People on the team take notes on post its in the form of “How might we..” (HMW). This allows us to focus on opportunities rather than problems.

Organize all of these notes on to a wall and group them based on similar themes or ideas.

Voting on HMW notes:

  • Each person gets 2 large dot stickers. The decider gets 4 large dot stickers
  • Review the goal and the sprint questions
  • Everyone votes on the ideas they want
  • Take the notes with multiple notes and stick them onto your map – they should correspond with a specific step in the story


The final task for Monday is to choose a sprint target.

Who is the most important customer, and what’s the critical moment of the customer’s experience?

The decider chooses 1 target customer and 1 event. This will become the focus of the rest of the sprint.

The target should line up with one or more of your sprint questions.


Lightning Demos

  • Everyone reviews existing products or services and demos them. 3 minutes per demo
  • Capture the big ideas and record them on the whiteboard. Remember: always be capturing so you don’t lose any great ideas.
  • Make a quick drawing of the component and add a headline above it.

Divide Or Swarm

Divide up your map if there are many pieces to cover.


  • On Tuesday afternoon, you should come up with solutions.
  • Work individually and sketch out your ideas.
  • Sketching is the easiest way to turn abstract ideas into more concrete solutions.

The Four-Step Sketch

  1. Notes
    • Look at what is already on the whiteboards. Take 20 minutes to capture any important notes or info that stands out to you.
  2. Ideas
    • Take 20 minutes to turn these notes into ideas. Take some time at the end of the 20 minutes to note your favorites.
  3. Crazy 8s
    • Take your strongest idea and rapidly sketch 8 variations in 8 minutes. This forces you to create different solutions and consider new ideas.
    • 60 seconds per section x 8 sections = 8 minutes
  4. Solution Sketch
    • Consider how to solve the challenge at hand. Select your best idea and sketch it out in detail.
    • Each sketch will be a 3-panel storyboard that shows what your customers see when they interact with your product or service.
    • Make sure it can be understood without explanation and keep it anonymous.
    • This should take 30 minutes and you should have 1 sketch created at the end.
  5. Words matter
    • Don’t use lorem ipsum. Consider the words that you use so you make your idea more real.
  6. Give it a catchy title
    • A simple title will help to keep track of the different solutions.



  • The goal for Wednesday morning is to decide which solutions to prototype.
  1. Art museum – put the solution sketches on the wall
  2. Heat Map – use dot stickers to mark the interesting parts (in silence)
  3. Speed Critique – discuss the highlights of each solution (3 minutes per sketch)
  4. Straw Poll – each person votes on a solution
  5. Supervote – The Decider has the final decision


  • A storyboard will consist of about 10 to 15 panels that tell the story of the customer’s journey.
  • This will help you to spot any potential issues before your prototype is built.
  • Choose an opening scene that describes how your customer finds your company/product.
  • Fill out the storyboard using sticky notes from your sketches from Tuesday
  • The story itself should be able to be tested in 15 minutes or less (about 1 minute per frame).


The Prototype Mindset

  1. You Can Prototype Anything
  2. Prototypes are disposable
  3. Build just enough to learn, but not more
  4. The prototype must appear real – it needs to evoke honest reactions from your customers


  • Keynote is the recommended prototype building tool (Mac only)
  • Divide your team to build the prototype:
    • Makers (at least 2) create individual screens, pages, etc. These are usually designers or engineers.
    • The Stitcher collects the components from the Makers and combines them. This is usually a designer or engineer. They need to ensure the prototype is consistent and realistic
    • A Writer is necessary if you require technical writing
    • At least one asset collector is needed to source graphics, images, sample content, etc.
    • The Interviewer will use the finished prototype on Friday to conduct customer interviews.
  • Do a trial run of the prototype with the Interviewer.



  • 5 is the optimal number of people to interview. Any more and the ROI drops, any less and you don’t usually have enough information to go on.
  • The Five Act Interview
    1. A friendly welcome
    2. General open-ended context questions about the customer
    3. Introduction to the prototype
    4. Detailed tasks to get the customer to step through the prototype
    5. A quick debrief to capture the customer’s thoughts.
  • The interviews will take place in 2 rooms:
    • the sprint team will watch the interviews take place in a separate room over video (with the customer’s permission)
    • the interview room is where the interviewer and the customer will conduct the interview.
  • Take notes
    • on a large whiteboard create 5 columns, one for each customer.
    • add rows for each section of the prototype and/or the sprint question
    • When you note something interesting, add it to a sticky note and put it on the board. Denote it with + for positive, – for negative, leave blank for neutral
  • look for patterns that show up with 3 or more customers. Make note of these patterns.
  • Once the interviews have been completed, it’s time to look back at the sprint questions.
  • These will help you to decide on your next steps. The Decider decides how to follow up.

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