After our Strategy Workshop in Feburary 2019, Kiron contacted us again in early summer with a request: The active use of the lean innovation methods from our workshop created so many customer insights so that the product team wanted to improve the design of the short study programs (SSP). Kiron enables access to higher education and successful learning for refugees through digital solutions. The SSP shall make learning content easier to access and fit better into the complicated situation of refugees. And they asked us to facilitate a 5-day design Sprint following the model of the GV Design Sprint (

 A Test Run for Cross Functional Teamwork

The team at Kiron ( hasn’t used a Sprint before and also was new to working as a fully cross-functional team. In fact, Kiron ( had separated the creation of learning content from product development into two independent units which made the creation of whole user experiences hard. As Kiron planned to rebuild their teams and the Sprint offered a perfect test run for cross functional teamwork. So the product manager invited participants  from the curriculum team, learning instructors, student communications, front end developers, and UX to work one week together on one single goal.


Facilitating the Team Genius

The word “Sprint” speaks for itself. A 5-day Design Sprint an intensive, sportive activity, especially for newbies in Agile and Design Thinking.  As the team constellation was new we’ve worked on creating a safe space for collaboration. We added daily standups to check-in personally in the morning, added a couple of warm-ups (Living Machine and the Apple warm-up) to create play, fun and trust, visualized the desired team culture using the Culture Map ( and used short Agile retrospectives at the end of each day to reflect on behaviours and gather personal feedbacks. All of which helped the team to enjoy the speed playfully and feel psychologically safe rather then feel stressed.

Diverse Teams Need Team Culture

Especially when participants of a team have never collaborated before tools for smoother team collaboration are needed. A tool we often use is the Culture Map to visualize implicit assumptions about what makes a team great. When lifting up the team co-creating a culture map is a useful exercise so that the team is mindful about enablers and blockers, gets to decide how they want to work together during the week, agrees on what team behavior they want to strive for, what to avoid and what could help them create psychological safety to create great outcomes. Combined with a daily quick Agile retrospective it helps to identify blockers and adjust behaviours to achieve one of the goals: a culture of cross-functional collaboration of all team members, which since then work together in similar formations.

Sprints Are Challenging For NGO’s

As much as we were happy about the invitation, it has to be said with all due respect: Sprints are not easy for an NGO. Already to get the financial means for a Sprint is not a matter of course. Therefore the team had no or little experience in preparing and running a Sprint. In addition to the further development of their product, the team asked us to impart the central elements and tools of a Sprint so that they could run them themselves in the future.

Preparation Is Key For a Good Sprint

One lesson we learned is to pay close attention to preparing for a sprint. Add enough time beforehand to discuss the team constellation. Here are our heuristics for a good team constellation: as small yet complete as possible, maximum diverse and 100% dedicated. Identify and clarify  the business goal and plan ahead who should come in for the expert-interviews. Be clear about product’s special decision making responsibility within the team. Due to time constraints we had compromised on the Sprint goal which made problem framing and re-framing one of the most challenging activities during the Sprint. In retrospect we wished for a prep meeting including the management board to set long-term objectives and metrics and thus pave the way to the map.

The Map for Beginners

Creating a map is, for experienced teams, possibly a simple exercise. The map helped a lot, but clearly was a first and unexpected challenge for the team. It helped to surface a weakness Kiron ( tried to tackle in the past months: gain a deep understanding of their customers Job-To-Be-Done and their contexts. Hannes Rudzik, Product Manager at Kiroon, stated

“User research is challenging as Kiron ( users are often in ‘difficult’ situations: new (not native) language, studying and working in parallel, bad internet connection, to name a few. Producing valid results from research is harder if talking to users is hard to organize.” 

What else did we do to tweak the Design Sprint?

Iterate early and often

By end of Monday we didn’t feel to have enough clarity to frame the problem. After a good night’s sleep on Tuesday morning we asked the team to get the sense of the users back in the room and to reframe a different Point of Views. This short iteration of the Sprint questions helped to support the decision making process further on.

6 Thinking Hats for Speed Critique

To inspire the speed critique on Wednesday we tried the 6 Thinking Hats ( – unfortunately a failure. New to the experience and the team, the participants felt overwhelmed to stay in their roles.

Role-play and POV to Test the Story Board

Another iteration of using role-play in decision making worked well. After completing the storyboard on Wednesday we asked the customer communication expert in the team to step into the shoes of a specific persona in a role-play where the team acted out the solution defined by the storyboard. This took just 30 minutes and helped spot weaknesses in the storyboard that could be fixed easily. One idea that we took a note of: What if we would have included experts from the company in the customer vs. solution role-play?

Micro Scrum to Prototype on Thursday

To keep up the speed was hard, especially towards the end. One reason why we used Scrum with 30 minutes Micro-Sprints to build the prototype on Thursday. It worked! Each Sprint included a short review and reflection of the process that helped the team manage the time, the scope and adapt rapidly their roles and responsibilities.  By the end of the day the team could proudly present a newly designed Short Study Program to their peers within a company gathering.

This is number three of a series of three posts about our insights from innovation at NOGs and working with Kiron. You may also want to read also Lean Product Strategy for NGOs and One Day Product Strategy Workshop.