Collaboration Sprint — Making team success plannable in the new normal

Sebastian Hitzler
6 min readSep 30, 2021
© Tyler Olson

Successful collaboration is an evergreen and a mystery at the same time. The current reality of the ‚New Normal‘ shows us once again that functioning or even best-in-class teamwork can’t be taken for granted.

Many teams and their leaders are struggling because they lost their team-spirit and motivation in isolation during long periods of lock-down and working from home. It‘s a bitter pill to swallow especially when you thought everything was going well before. Ordering people simply ‚back-to-office‘ is not an option. Company agreements that include hybrid working mode of office and homeoffice are only part of the solution.

There are creative approaches using office space completely flexible and offering lots of spaces for people to meet. Others shift away from a static office and allow every employee to choose from where they want to work. Co-working spaces are rented on-demand if colleagues want to gather physically.

For sure these are positive trends but they only affect the outside conditions for team collaboration. But what’s needed is an idea how human interaction in each setup is supposed to work. Frequently you are referred to ‚New Work‘ concepts. However, their operationalization is yet another challenge for organisations especially for the working level. If their promises of salvation do not come true the ‚New Work‘ consultants recommend a culture change in the company in order to make it work. Luckily there is a suitable upsell.

But jokes aside, overall there are unprecedented possibilities for teams who want to re-invent their collaboration. Many things have been learned, many things have gained broad acceptance. These are the resources we want to focus on now.

A plannable success experience

Inspired by our own experiences and learnings as teamleads and coaches we introduced the ‚Collaboration Sprint‘ concept. It offers concrete and plannable steps to successful collaboration for any kind of team. Consciously experiencing team success results in sustained motivation for each member (or ‚psychological empowerment‘ as the Harvard Business Manager puts it in issue 12/2020 ‚The New Work Lies‘). Our ‚Collaboration Sprint‘ is a mix of experiential education and proven agile methods orchestrated in an iterative process.

A sprint is defined by a fixed timeframe and a motivating goal pursued by a team. With every sprint the team should stretch out for more challenging goals. It is important to strike a good balance between increasing demand and stronger team-skills in order to reach a state of flow and to maintain it. The flow state offers ideal conditions for learning and development. The fixed timeframes of ‚Collaboration Sprint‘ cycles and regular self-reflexions allow the team to re-balance itself frequently.

‚Collaboration Sprint‘ is suitable for every kind of team because it is just a generic framework with a set of basic principles. Content and design are adapted according to team setup and goal. The team doesn’t have to learn new roles (as opposed to SCRUM). Each member should act in its authentic role, position and personality. Same applies for the sprint goal. It is a co-operative team goal that brings value to the organisation, not an artificial one that is only designed for the purpose of training. Nevertheless, it depends on the specific situation if the team can focus 100% on its sprint goal or if it has to harmonize it with routine tasks and daily business. The actual working mode should be discussed early in the planning phase.

We recommend that each team is guided through the sprint by a trained coach or teamlead. The ‚sprint master‘ ensures that the process is running as planned and the events are carried out professionally and deliver results. The team should not worry about the process but focus on the tasks and goals. Please note: If the teamlead of the respective team takes the role of the ‚sprint master‘ she should carry it out in a servant leadership manner. Do not solve problems for the team or apply pressure to reach the goal.

The 5 steps of Collaboration Sprint

Collaboration Sprint Spiral
© Potenzial Werkstatt
  1. Goal Setting: Definition of a team-individual sprint goal with success criteria. It is a challenge that the team can only achieve together and whose result is really attractive for the organization.
  2. Planning: Conception of the workshop design adapted to the team and sprint goal, determination of locations and time intervals as well as planning of the team events.
  3. Offsite Workshop: A team event that takes place away from the usual working environment and enables new perspectives to be taken. If necessary, the team develops new ways of working and defines concrete next steps towards the goal.
    A Grow Phase of 1–3 weeks follows: The team works in its usual environment, is focused on the goal and puts the insights gained into practice.
  4. Energizer: A team event that takes place around the halfway point of the sprint. Demo of the results achieved so far by the team and joint reflection on the collaboration to date and, if necessary, optimization. The event gives the team a motivational boost for the final spurt.
    Another Grow Phase of 1–3 weeks follows: The team works again in its familiar environment. This time it’s all about the big picture — achieving the sprint goal.
  5. Goal Review: The big sprint finale. Final demonstration of the results achieved and success check with regard to the sprint goal, as well as reflection on the readiness for self-organization and resilience in the team.
    After the sprint is before the sprint. A new sprint with higher goals can be started immediately. The cycle contains the same steps, but the team should increase its content so as not to fall into a business-as-usual routine.

Buddy principle for sustainable team success

It’s not just a matter of “what” you do, but also “how” you do it. We call the way of dealing with each other in a Collaboration Sprint the buddy principle. By this we mean certain cooperative behaviors coupled with an attitude that goes beyond the usual professional collegiality. However, this can’t really be taught or enforced. Such attempts quickly tip toward brainwashing. We model the principles and give the team opportunities to adapt them. Living the buddy principle strengthens the team from within. Throughout the sprint, we create events in which the team can consciously experience and further develop the culture of trust in the team:

  • Challenge each other
  • Acting in a coordinated manner
  • Safeguarding each other
  • Learning from each other
  • Complementing each other and combining strengths ​

Needless to say, a solid foundation of trust gives teams and organizations the strength and stability they need, especially in difficult times.


For anyone who wants to run a Collaboration Sprint with their team themselves, in the next article we describe the individual steps in the form of a do-it-yourself guide. We also outline methods and tools that work well for us. However, this is no substitute for in-depth, methodological training coupled with practical experience. It is important that team events are well crafted. Otherwise, they will not achieve the desired effect.

We hope to reach many teams and individuals with the Collaboration Sprint. Since we come from the real world, we know first-hand the challenges people face in today’s working world. After all, we have to find solutions to them ourselves on a daily basis. That’s why we also share the belief that there is never an end to learning opportunities. Any interested reader or user is encouraged to contact us, share experiences or ask questions. We welcome any feedback.