Collaborative Design: Sprinting Ahead


This article was originally published in Current Connections Spring 2020 issue.

Thanks to internet commerce and massive logistics firms, most people can order nearly anything and see it arrive on their doorstep the next day. This is known as red-label shipping. Red-label shipping for spare parts, arc flash tags, or permit drawings often help projects recover from a last-minute surprise. 

With the idea of red-label shipping in mind, we asked these questions: What would it look like to “red-label” a design package? How could we accelerate the timeline of design and turn out a deliverable or set in hours instead of days or in days instead of weeks? How can we speed up a project? We answered these questions with one word, sprint. 

Delivering with a Sprint

Building on success and lessons learned from trial runs, labeled as “Apollo” projects within Interstates, the sprint has become a powerful tool for completing design and coordination efforts in less calendar time than a traditional staged delivery method.

A sprint can be used any time there is an opportunity where a group of people come together around a specific problem and work collaboratively to create a solution. For example: 

  • Pulling a group of leaders together to generate and agree to strategy in a two-day intensive session. 
  • Assembling a multi-discipline team of designers to complete detailed coordination of a project. 
  • Setting a recurring sprint session for group review of shop drawings and submittals. 

We have found the sprint comes with additional benefits such as: 

  • Cross-training opportunity where more experienced leaders can train new team members 
  • Relationship building among team members who would not normally work together in their primary roles 
  • Serving as a platform to experiment with alternate methods and new tools 
Pursuing a Better Way

Some lessons learned from using sprints at Interstates include: 

  • Preparations for the sprint are critical. The team must know why they are doing the work, what their definition of “done” is, and obtain all the information required to complete the work. 
  • Start the sprint each day by clearly articulating the overall goal. 
  • The sprint team should set intermediate goals and review them regularly to track progress. 
  • Plan for reviews that will be needed and ensure the necessary leaders and technical experts will be available even if they are not full participants in the sprint. 
  • Be prepared if some work does not get completed during the sprint by planning to finish the work afterward or add resources while the sprint is in progress. 

Sohow have we used this “red-label” design—a sprint— for our clients? Recently, a client contacted us and needed urgent help with a permit package. A team was assembled for a sprint, and they worked together to assemble and send a stamped drawing package less than 36 hours after starting with blank paper. The client was able to obtain its permit on time, and the project proceeded on schedule. By having the right people in the room, we created a collaborative area to identify and solve our client’s problem. 

If you are interested in learning more about leveraging sprints to accelerate your project, please contact us at 712-722-1662. 

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Sam Fopma, Electrical Engineer


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