Starting anything new and then delivering well, is difficult. Inceptions are our teams’ tried and trusted pattern to kick things off and opt for success.
The Inception Toolkit provides all teams need to plan, design and ultimately run inceptions with ease and confidence.
Lean Inception Toolkit
Inceptions help teams achieve better outcomes. This Lean Inception Toolkit provides tools and patterns for the facilitation of inceptions.
I a nut-shell Inceptions answer there questions:
- Alignment on ‘where we want to be’
- Understanding of where we are
- Definition of how we get there
and ensure that in order to be successful we have everything we need in place.
While the set of activities to get to these answers can be quite elaborate and highly contextual, this toolkit is a perfect starting point for most inceptions.
Inceptions: What, why and how?
It's all about you
What the toolkit includes
- a playbook with guidance notes and advise on how to prep, design, plan and execute lean inceptions
- the lean inception blueprint and agenda as starting point for design and planning
- a (Miro) workshop template that our teams use to facilitate the various workshop sessions
It's all about you
Working at pace
Lean & Agile
How does the blueprint work?
Important: Don’t engage in an inception if the brief is vague or you are not confident in its validity (you should be in a discovery in that case). Neither underestimated nor compromise on planning!
Especially Lean: Be explicit about what the inception is supposed to do (usually to jump start delivery).
Commence the inception with a kick off session during which a senior stakeholder set’s the scene, outlines goals and re-iterates the relevance. Introductions should be part of this, as well as an agenda walkthrough and an explanation of ways of working during the inception.
Important: Scene setting, alignment and instilling a sense of urgency is of utmost importance.
Especially Lean: Make sure all participants understand and buy-into lean and agile ways of working.
There is also an early opportunity to start looking at project risks.
Important: In an Inception we only validate vision, and refine goals at the level of our initiative. If we cannot express these, or they do not make sense you should consider going back to a discovery: you may not have a valid reason to ‘do’ the initiative.
Especially Lean: Goals are a must. You may get away without the rest.
To understand the building blocks that make our business landscape we can use the Business Model Canvas, to understand the specifics of our domain (be this process, product or technology) we create a context model. We can use both to model (reverse-engineer an existing domain or model a new target state. Or both to show evolution). We will want to understand who the people we are impacting or who may impact us are and how to interact with them. Finally, and maybe most importantly, we need to understand who our users are, what they desire and how we can delivery a valuable end to end experience.
Important: Do not skip this step, even if business stakeholders think this is all known and obvious. I bet, it isn’t.
Especially Lean: As a minimum you need an end-to-end expression of all building blocks that affect your initiative. This may mean all these artefacts, or, you may get away with an existing architecture diagram and a user story m map created in the next step. Your stakeholder map and user needs could simply be bulleted list. Use the business model canvas to design or re-verse engineer a business.
Important: Don’t go too deep at this stage. We are working at logical level, and breadth over depth. But do cover the high risk, high complexity areas. I have worked with teams who were playing small stories for tech exploration or risk-evaluation as part of this.
Especially Lean: We certainly will want an idea of the solution shape, of potential scope, and featuremaps are great for this. If you are working in an existing domain, non functional requirements, architecture, stack, infrastructure and path to production may exist and remain unchanged, so as long as you have validated that this is the case, there may very little to do on these aspects.
Important: This is agile, not waterfall. So provide a best-guestimate roadmap, not a plan, but allow your team the time and freedom to estimate. Focus more on risks and dependencies, because these are likely trip you up. Ensure you have your ways of working agreed and with that, ensured team and resource availability.
Especially Lean: the most important output of this stage is a concrete plan of action of what to do next.
- a showcase to the inception team and possibly senior management or even the wider organisation
- a retrospective / lessons learned session for continuous improvement of the next inception.
Important: Don’t loose momentum between the last workshop and when you start delivery.
Especially Lean: Make this all about actionable next step.
Burn Up Podcast Episode
This playbook provides 1-page recipes and templates we find most helpful in day to day use across all disciplines.
Want to know more?
Here are a number of additional resources that you might find interesting…