PM Nanodegree Design Sprints: Sprint Master

The Sprint Master

  • Creates the structure of the Sprint
  • Selects which methodologies will be used
  • Facilitates during the sprint
  • Keeps the team focused and on track

Your First Sprint

There’s a lot going on during a Sprint, so if possible I would recommend that you get more experience before you lead a Sprint on your own.

  1. Participate in a sprint to really get a better understanding of exactly how they work
  2. Shadow a Sprint Master as they are putting together and planning a Sprint
  3. Co-facilitate a sprint with another experienced Sprint Master

When you have completed all three steps you are ready to facilitate a Design Sprint on your own.

Challenge Statement

Creating a challenge statement for a Design Sprint is a great way to help everyone understand the purpose of the sprint. The best challenge statements are:

  • Short and easy to understand
  • Something with urgency that needs to be delivered
  • Contain a timeframe
  • Are inspiring and get people excited

An easy format to follow is:


Sprint Team

  • About 6 people
  • If more than that, split the group into smaller teams that work through exercises in parallel and then share with the whole group
  • You will want to identify people whose work is directly related to the sprint challenge


  • Build a rough agenda for your sprint
  • Select methods for each phase (which we’ll discuss in the following lessons) that will provide insights for the problem you are trying to solve. Keep in mind the composition of your sprint team — if people are more familiar with the problem space, it likely will make more sense to spend more time on ideation whereas if people are less familiar it would make sense to spend more time on understanding the problem space.


  • Secure a space for the sprint to take place, preferably somewhere away from distractions
  • Tons of space for everyone who is participating
  • Whiteboards or lots of wall space for posting stickies


  • Post it notes
  • Dry erase markers for whiteboard (multiple colors)
  • Sharpies
  • Pens
  • Paper
  • Giant post it notes (if no whiteboard)


  • Send a calendar invite to the sprint team
  • Coordinate getting some light snacks / refreshments for each day
  • Arrive earlier to make sure that the room is arranged in a way that is conducive for collaboration (ex: a U shape around a whiteboard)
  • Send a reminder the day before, with any pre-work that the team needs to do (like reviewing user research or trying competing products)

Planning a Design Further Research

Challenge Statement Further Research


If your Sprint team hasn’t worked together before, it’s a good idea to spend a little bit of time getting the group comfortable with each other. At a minimum, this means that each member should know every other member’s name and role.

It can also be beneficial to do a quick icebreaker exercise, although you won’t want to spend too much time on this — no more than 20 minutes. These are short exercises designed to get people to open up and connect with others. Two quick icebreakers you can use are:

  • Two truths and a lie — each team member introduces themselves and includes three facts about themselves. Two of them are true and one is false. The team must figure out which one is false.
  • Superpower — each team member introduces themselves along with the superpower that they are bringing to the team.

Icebreakers Further Research

Tips when working with designers

  • You are not a designer. Acknowledge that designers have expertise when talking about UI and flows
  • When critiquing a design it’s often more effective to ask about the intention of a choice

Design is a critical partner for Product Managers. It’s important to cultivate strong relationships and understand and acknowledge the perspective of your Designer(s). Your style of communication goes a long way. When critiquing a design, keep in mind that it’s often more effective to ask about the intention of a choice rather than saying you don’t like something.

For example, asking “What was the reasoning behind placing the button in the right corner?” can then develop into further conversation where you can share that you are worried that users might be confused and not able to find the button due to its placement. This is a much more effective way to work with Designers than saying “I don’t like where the button is placed.” or “The button is placed in a confusing location.”

Lesson Recap

You’ve reached the end of the Intro to Design Sprint lesson. We covered the following topics:

  • What is a Design Sprint
  • Identifying the right problems for a Design Sprint
  • Planning a Design Sprint
  • Working with Designers

At this point, you should be able to:

  • Describe what a Design Sprint is
  • Identify good candidates for a Design Sprint
  • Plan a Design Sprint
  • Explain the similarities and differences between the Product Manager and Designer roles



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