Inception exercise is very common in software development, where we gather the business requirements and define the delivery plan for the MVP(Minimum Viable Product) on a shared understanding. There are a set of tools and practices available to define the MVP requirements and its delivery plan. Famous tools are Lean Value Tree, Business Model Canvas, Plane Map, Elevator Pitch, Futurespective, Empathy Maps, Value Proposition Canvas, User Journey Map, Gamestorming, Process Diagram, MoSCoW, Communication Plan, Project Plan etc.
We have recently concluded an Inception Workshop at ThoughtWorks, by Akshay Dhawle, Smita Bhat and Pramod Shaik. It was a 3 days workshop, full of exposure to different tools, exercises and role-plays. Thanks to the mentors and participants, for making it so smooth and fun. We learned a lot of different aspects of the inception and situations. The inception may go wrong if we don’t care about the intricacies, does not matter how equipped you or your team is.
Here are my key takeaways from the workshop :
- Choose the tool wisely, the tool should to simply the process and help us uncover the hidden aspects. A wrong tool selection may take the exercise completely off the track.
- The inception team must be comfortable with the selected tool and practices, it is better to do a rehearsal using the selected tool or practice.
- It is advisable that the inception team members should work together for atleast a week or so to understand each other and build synergies among themselves.
- Always go prepared with detailed inception plan and objective on each day, do a rehearsal with the inception team before facing the client.
- Do retrospection even if you think that things are going well, to understand the team’s performance and improvise on time.
- Have a backup plan for almost everything, from people/resource unavailability to selection of the tools.
- Be flexible, and get ready to adapt to the new plans.
- Define drivers in the inception of different exercises, as well as overall inception, who owns the facilitation. Define the roles and expectations upfront, however as stated earlier alway have a backup. If we stuck with tool/situations than driver needs to push the team forward.
- Inception is a collaborative exercise, the decisions should be taken with common understanding with client’s inception team, there should not be any last-minute surprise for the stakeholders.
- Utilize the client’s time optimally, and try to finish it in the agreed time. Do homework, and go with your well-thought understanding of the problem.
- Have a domain SME in the team.
- Have a diverse team for inception.
- Parallelise the inception activities, whenever required.
- Get the final presentation deck reviewed with the client stakeholders before presenting it to a larger audience.
- Record meeting notes and build/update the agreed artifacts after the sessions. Don’t delay building showcase/artifacts till the end. Divide and conquer. Share the notes with all the involved stakeholders.
- Have review checkpoints with the client at a different stage of the inception.
- While presenting the outcome to the client, it is recommended to present the sections which you were part of, otherwise, get a knowledge dump from the authors before the presentation.
- Don’t over commit to the client, be honest and transparent.
- Clearly call out pre and post inception activities.
- Don’t ignore any inputs from the team, keep it in the parking lot, review it often.
- Timebox the exercises, don’t stick on one exercise. If one exercise does not complete/get optimal output in a reasonable time, then have a plan for alternatives.
Inception is planned to bring stakeholders on same understanding of the product and delivery road map. The focus should be on inception goal, rather than on the tool selection. The tool is just a medium, use the simplest tool in which the team is comfortable in. Facilitate the inception as a collaborative exercise, where all the participants can comfortability participate and agree upon.
This article was originally published on My LinkedIn Profile