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Lean Inception Template

But how to quickly set up a well-planned Inception?

I have written and spoken extensively about inceptions: on how to plan, design and run them.

This free (Miro) template is the final piece in the puzzle to enable you and your teams to plan, design and ultimately run inceptions with ease and confidence.

Lean Inception Template

Inceptions help teams achieve better outcomes. This Lean Inception Template provides a proven pattern for the facilitation of inceptions.
  • Understanding of where we are
  • Definition of how we get there

Inception template

This free (Miro) template enables teams to efficiently and effectively plan and design inceptions. It provides a blueprint ensuring that the inception covers all must have aspects and has a good ‘narrative’. It is also highly adaptable, so that teams can easily adapt and tailor, to make this truly their own…
It's all about you


While there is a generic pattern, a narrative all inceptions follow, the type of questions, the activities and the way we facilitate these are highly contextual to each inception: they depend on the challenge at hand, type of project, context and the people involved, their culture and experience.
This template provides a starting point and together with the Inception Playbook instructions to how to tailor and adapt to craft the inception your initiative needs. 
Working at pace

Lean & Agile

It is very important that we don’t mistake inceptions for an excuse to get into a Big-Design-Up-Front anti-pattern. Instead, inceptions must follow lean and agile best practices, i.e. doing ‘just as much as is needed, just at the right point in time’ to mitigate risks and provide context and actionable insights, while not preventing future agility and flexibility or waste.
Inceptions also need follow agile principles to allow us to adapt to change as we learn and context around us changes, during the inception but also afterwards during implementation.
This template, if well facilitated, will strongly impress and enable these best practices.
Creating momentum

Actionable outcomes

There is always a risk with workshops of this type that they result in profound-sounding nothing-ness whereby we spend 5 days in workshops but are still none the wiser on how to proceed. This template and related facilitation advise focus teams on creating actionable insights, in some cases, in fact start to action certain activities already during the inception, so that teams cannot only hit the ground running, but do so with confidence and at sustainable pace.

How does the blueprint work?

Lean Inception Blueprint


We start with understanding and aligning on where we want to be. We look at vision and goals, and the underlying strategic drivers, i.e. the reasons for the problem or the opportunity.
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.


Shared context ensures we are talking about the same thing and can make informed decisions.
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. It is possibly the least important one here for lightweight Inceptions.


Here is where we start looking at the future solution. We devise features and document and prioritise them in a Featuremap. Dependent on where you are and what you need to elicit, you may consider service blueprints, user journeys, mock-ups, early wireframes. Whatever helps to ideate and illustrate a potential solution. Dependent on your project you will also want to think about non functional requirements, technical architecture, tech stack and how our path to production and infrastructure looks like. Dependent on our domain we may need to express as-is and or the to-be state.

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.


Finally, we need to decide on how we are going to deliver the initiative. It is important that we understand dependencies, risks and agree on our ways of working. Setting up a framework for decision making, i.e. the principles you apply for prioritisation and for making trade-offs is also valuable. Ultimately will want a ‘plan’ of sorts, at this point a roadmap (for which we will have to do some high level estimation) and may want an Epic level backlog and maybe Stories for the first sprint. May teams I worked with ended an inception with very clear next steps, sometimes in form of a Sprint0 backlog to action right away.

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.
Lean inception blueprint

Inception Toolkit

A toolkit for the planning, design and facilitation of Lean Inceptions. We use this toolkit as starting point whenever we have to run an inception.

Inception Introduction

Conference Talk + Presentation Deck

This is where you might want to start, an introduction with case-study examples of what inceptions are, how they unfold, and how to do them…
Watch conference talkDownload Deck
Download presentation with speakernotes.
Inception Playbook cover

Inception Playbook

A detailed description of how to design, plan and run inceptions, covering the overall flow, collaboration&visualisation tools&techniques and facilitation methods.
TheBurnUP Podcast

Burn Up Podcast Episode

In this episode Swahti Poddar and I discuss inceptions.
Core Tools Playbook cover

Tools playbook

Over the last decade, the lean / agile community has created a large number of tools and techniques to solve day to day problems. While these tools may be quite specific, e.g. defining vision, goals or business models, modelling context or scope, managing risks or stakeholders, they ultimately all help us manage complexity, share context and collaborate and communicate effectively.
This playbook provides 1-page recipes and templates we find most helpful in day to day use across all disciplines.
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