The Emotional Rollercoaster: Key to Remote Sprint Success

March 4, 2019
Dana Vetan

In our fast-paced world, where we're constantly bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information, the concept of an engaged team in a week long Design Sprint workshop is more critical than ever. Let's consider the fact that the average human attention span has significantly decreased from 12 to just 8 seconds in the last 18 years, largely due to the influence of the internet and modern technologies like smartphones and video games.

This brings us to the heart of the matter: maintaining engagement in teams, particularly in Remote Design Sprints. The foundation lies in ensuring that every team member is clear about the sprint's challenges, expected outcomes, and their specific roles.

Their presence and attention are crucial, but achieving this consistently is a different challenge altogether.

In traditional, in-person sprints, we employ various strategies to keep the team involved. These include explaining the purpose behind each task to gain team buy-in, observing and responding to people's reactions and emotions, demonstrating empathy both in successes and challenges, and using our energy as Facilitators to make up for any dips in the team's vigor.

However, these techniques often don't translate well in a remote environment.

That's why we've developed a unique tool tailored for remote sprints. This tool is designed to gauge the emotional state of the team, allowing Facilitators to maintain that crucial team engagement.

This is basically a tool for empathy, a Miro and Mural template to help Design Sprint Facilitators screen the emotional state of their remote team and help them act accordingly.

The Emotional Rollercoaster is a vital tool in the facilitation of design sprints for two primary reasons. Firstly, it sets the right expectations, and secondly, it serves as a gauge for assessing the team's overall health and level of engagement.

Here's how to effectively utilize the Emotional Rollercoaster:

1. Before the Sprint:

In the preparatory phase of your remote sprint, introducing the Emotional Rollercoaster is crucial. At the Design Sprint Academy, for instance, we conduct a one-hour onboarding session with the sprint team a week prior to the sprint. This session is not just about logistics; it's an opportunity to align the team's expectations and mentally prepare them for the upcoming journey. We take this time to guide the team through the emotional arc of a sprint, demystifying what lies ahead. This approach lessens ambiguity, fosters a safer environment, and builds trust in you as the Facilitator.

2. During the Sprint:

As you progress through various exercises and phases of the sprint, the Emotional Rollercoaster becomes a tool for diagnosing the team’s health. After each activity, encourage team members to articulate their feelings. This practice is grounded in neuroscience; labeling emotions can create a mental distance from negative feelings, reducing their impact. It's known that acknowledging emotions can dampen the response of the amygdala (the brain's alarm center) and lower stress levels caused by negative emotions like fear or anger.

By employing the Emotional Rollercoaster's daily diagnosis template, you enable your team to identify and express their emotions throughout the sprint. This insight guides you in deciding whether to take a break, reiterate the purpose of an exercise, inject more energy into the session, introduce ice-breakers, or demonstrate greater empathy. The strategy you choose, informed by the team’s emotional state, significantly boosts your chances of a successful sprint.


By focusing not only on the technical aspects of a sprint but also on the emotional journey of its participants, Design Sprint Facilitators can foster a more engaged, creative, and productive environment. This empathetic approach not only enhances the quality of the sprint's outcomes but also enriches the experience of the participants, leading to a more harmonious and effective team dynamic.