To sprint, or not to sprint?

If your goal is to develop a new service offering, a breakthrough customer experience, or an innovative business model – and if you work in a large enterprise – is a sprint realistic? You bet it is! 

Sprints work, because resources are finite and success is not about the quality of ideas. Any half-decent idea will improve quickly if you iterate effectively.

But before you step in the blocks and anticipate the starter’s gun, keep reading to make sure you and your team are set up for success for your next innovation sprint.


You've got questions, we've got answers. Click or scroll to learn more.


Is my problem fit for a sprint?


Innovation sprints can be very effective in the right conditions. 


High-priority customer problem is identified
“This opportunity really matters. But our traditional project management approaches haven’t worked to get this problem solved.”

High uncertainty  
“We have a lot more questions than answers; it’s pretty likely we’ll need to pivot as we get feedback from the market.”

Small, capable teams can be assigned for a short period of time 
“We’ve got a switched-on team leader that is excited by the sprint format.”

Limited resource appetite 
“We’ll need to learn quickly before we commit significant funding.”

No longitudinal data required 
“If we learn what I hope we will, then this opportunity will definitely attract additional funding.”

This last criteria is crucial; since the sprint runs out of resources at the end, it is important to know what will make it investable going forward. If the sprint is “successful” but can’t attract follow-on investment, then it wasn’t a good use of resources.


How can I win when I sprint?


Sprints are simple; they start with a bang and end with a kick. And you win an innovation sprint the same way you win a sprint in track:

Train and prepare

Simple race strategy

Sprint through the tape


Train & Prepare: The Sprint Compact

The most visible aspect of a sprint is the pace. But in order to go fast during the sprint, you need to go slowly before the sprint and put the right pieces in place. Peer Insight recommends using a formal sprint compact between the venture team and the sponsors.

The sprint compact specifies the four elements of a sprint, namely:


Customer Problem

Small Team


Resource Limits


The questions to be answered are specific to the type of sprint. Peer Insight likes to use specific templates for each phase to get venture teams and sponsors aligned on the most urgent questions for each phase.

We recommend keeping the compact down to the bare essentials. Typically, we ask the venture team to provide two 1-page templates.

Click the image to download example templates for the seed sprint.

Sprint Toolkit Download

Role of Sponsors

Sprints have sponsors, whether they are venture capitalists or corporate executives. Their role is limited but crucial.


  • Communicate strategic priorities to venture team.
  • Negotiate the sprint compact with the venture team.

During sprint

  • Provide access to customers and partners.
  • Provide mentorship (upon request) for problem-solving.
  • Otherwise stand-down.


  • Be eager for the strategic insights.
  • Be accessible for follow-on funding discussions.

Simple Race Strategy

Innovation sprint teams draw their methods from the tool kits of design thinking and lean startup. However, these tools need to be tailored to the compressed pace of the sprint.


Sprint Thru the Tape

Successful sprinters don't run to the tape, they run through it. Avoid anything that threatens to slow you down. Here are some common obstacles that represent sprint kryptonite, and must be avoided at all costs:

  • Status reports to executives

  • Mid-point reviews with executives

  • Fussed-over PowerPoint decks

  • Formal presentations to ... anyone

  • Briefings to the ________ committee

  • Internal socialization requirement

Theoretically, the sprint compact excludes these obstacles – but organizational reality rarely conforms to theory. Sprint teams need a strong sponsor – and an even stronger leader – to protect them from these intrusions.

If sponsors can’t introduce these common risk management mechanisms, then what can they do? Here’s the proper sponsor’s role in a sprint.


How can Peer Insight help my team sprint?


Peer Insight conducts three types of sprints:


Opportunity sprint

Examines a broad arena to determine whether there are customer problems your venture can solve. Results in multiple opportunities to feed a venture pipeline.


Seed sprint

Starts with a specific customer problem, then generates and validates a solution in 2D (no revenues).


Alpha sprint

Once a solution has been validated, an Alpha sprint is used to create the first live proof-of-concept and earn the first dollar of revenue.


These sprints can be understood using a risk-investment framework.

Have a challenge you'd like to discuss?

Send us an email. We'd love to chat.

Clay Maxwell
(336) 430-5403
Tim Ogilvie
(336) 430-5403