The Design Community of Practice met virtually on 29 May 2024.

We were joined by Rachel Dowle, Head of Strategic Design for the Office of the Chief Designer, Scottish Government and her colleague Anna Henderson, Lead Service Designer.

They talked about building co-design maturity within Scottish Government and beyond, through the ‘Getting It Right for Everyone’ project – creating the conditions by supporting teams to work with their communities and staff.

They gave examples of tools, including user journey maps and how they have used them.

View the presentation slides

View the presentation recording

Design Sprints - from the theory to practice 

The HIS service designers introduced the topic of design sprints and the community were then split into breakout rooms, to discuss experiences and challenges with sprints.

View the presentation slides

Here are some key insights from the discussion:

Implementing design sprints in public sector services can pose a challenge due to the complex nature of services. The traditional five-day format isn't often feasible, particularly in healthcare settings like the NHS, where different shifts and rotas make it impractical to have everyone available for five consecutive days. A more flexible approach, such as breaking the sprint into shorter sessions spread over several weeks, was suggested as an alternative.

Additionally, we discussed several practical tips, including:

1. Flexible scheduling: Sprints can be split into two consecutive days once a week, or done in a staggered approach. The pace can also depend on who is available, allowing different team members to join based on their shifts and availability, ensuring agility in participation.

2. Mindset over mechanics: It's more important to embrace the ‘spirit’ of design sprints than to stick rigidly to the format, and this may help in adopting design sprint principles more easily in the public sector. Encouraging people to have an open and creative mindset about the process, and ensuring participants are eager and interactive, is important. ‘Invite those who don’t mind playing with Lego’ indicates the mindset of participants you might want to invite to a sprint, if you are considering using such tools.

To encourage wider acceptance within the public sector, it's suggested to avoid labelling them as 'design sprints' and instead use alternative terms. One such example was 'Explore-Build-Test' (EBT), which is used by Police Scotland.

3. Choosing the right participants and getting the right support: Strategic engagement can be key. Invite participants who understand the process, enjoy interactive activities, and are eager to engage, as they are your ‘allies’. As the benefits become apparent, more people are likely to join, and those who have seen value in the process will spread the word. Also, securing buy-in from management is crucial for the eventual success of design sprints.

Some examples we discussed with variations of sprint formats include:
COVID-19 Rapid Testing: Implementing variations of sprints for rapid discovery and testing during the vaccination rollout, involving intensive, focused efforts over a seven-day period.
Content Design for NHS24: Managing resource availability and other work commitments by scheduling flexible and individual efforts as "one-person sprints".

We would be keen to continue this conversation about design sprints and hear from you.
Are there any other aspects we should be mindful of during the pre-planning and readiness check, or in the post-implementation stage? How about evaluation? What are your thoughts?
You can connect with the Design Community of Practice through the MS Teams space.