Preventing the Executive Swoop and Poop with Design Sprints

Jared M. Spool
7 min readJan 4, 2016


We’ve all seen it. That moment when a high-ranking, influential executive suddenly takes our design project off the rails. They burst in with their ideas blasting about who they think the design is for and what it should be.

It doesn’t matter how hard the team has worked on their design. It doesn’t matter what research they’ve done. The highest paid person in the room has a “better” approach and that’s all that matters.

The team just experienced another executive swoop and poop. Like a seagull on the attack, the executive has swooped into the project and pooped all over the team’s design. Flying away as fast as they came, they left carnage and rubble in their wake.

A Symptom of A Bigger Problem: No Shared Understanding

While there is the occasional rogue executive who flies around big organizations cutting their path of disruption, most of the time this is a symptom of a bigger issue. It comes from the team not laying the ground work to get all the important influencers on the same page about the design.

There may be others without shared understanding. They come into the middle of the project with different expectations. Most of the time, the team can dismiss the concerns of these uninformed folks. However, when someone with substantial position power (like an executive) marches in with different perceptions about the project, it’s hard to ignore. Swoop and poop.

Design Sprints to the Rescue

The good news is swoop and poop events are preventable. Design Sprints are a popular process that gets the team, including important influencers, on the same page early in the design life-cycle. Through a series of structured exercises, the team identifies critical assumptions, creates a prototype, and validates their ideas, all within a single week or so. The result is a shared understanding of what the team is building and why.

A typical design sprint takes about a week (though some folks stretch them out and others have figured out how to do smaller versions in less time). A team of participants assemble from various roles and perspectives in the organization. They define and unpack a problem that…



Jared M. Spool

Maker of Awesomeness at Center Centre - UIE. Helping designers everywhere help their organizations deliver well-designed products and services.