How to plan an inception?
You have to plan an inception and you are looking for activities to build your inception agenda. You reached the right page.
But before going into many options for inception activities, let me start by answering this question: How to plan an inception?
You have to sort out the people, the agenda, the place (physical or virtual) and the tools. And then, make sure to have the right people at the right place with the right tools, following a well-planned inception agenda.
But, what is an inception?
Inception is how agile teams begin their work.
The name Inception comes from the RUP (Rational Unified Process), a software engineering process created by Rational in the 90s for object-oriented development, based on UML (Unified Modeling Language).
Rational was purchased by IBM in 2003. At that time, RUP was considered one of the agile methodologies, with its proposal for shorter delivery cycles (three months was considered short back then) and incremental product evolution.
Inception was defined as the first of RUP’s four phases: Inception, Elaboration, Construction and Transition. Typically, during the Inception phase, the team would gather requirements via interviews with users and stakeholders. The result would be documented in the Use Case format. Then, augmenting and prioritising these Use Cases, the team would design the software and define the release plan for the project.
I stopped hearing about RUP long ago, but inception remain as a common term for agile teams.
Inception is how agile teams begin their work. Typically, Inception is a workshop with many activities to help the team align about the ways of working, regarding the people, the product, the technology, the design and/or the process.
Ok, but how to plan an inception, how to create an inception agenda?
It depends. Seriously. It is not just a typical consultant answer (I’m a consultant). It depends on what you want to get out of your inception.
Think about planning an inception agenda, as you plan a meal for a group of people at a restaurant. Think about the many inception activities as the items on a restaurant menu. Even better, think about the inception activities as the itens in a Spanish tapas restaurant menu. Sometimes you want to plan a Sunday lunch for a large group of people that have not met before; other times you are planning a quick snack for a few fiends. You must select the appropriate options for your context.
I live in Spain and tapas are a common thing here. Tapas are very small plates. You typically have many of these as a meal. Some of these small plates go very well with each other, while others do not match.
So, please find below the Inception activities menu. Please note, at the end of the menu, there is a session for the Set menu — a combination with a sequence of pre-selected activities (each set menu was created by a very experienced ‘inception chef’).
Inception activities Menu
Organising the workshop
- Ground rules
- Failover plan
- Burn-up Agenda
- Scheduled Agenda
- Kanban Agenda
- Parking lot
- Who we are (name / role)
- Who will participate (I’ll be in all sessions vs. In specific ones)
- Ice-breakers and energizers
- Business context and goals
- Define system goals and boundaries
- Business Model Canvas
- OKR session
- OKRit (OKR, initiatives and tasks)
- Defining the hypotheses
- Hypotheses Driven Development (HDD) with MVP
- Lean Value tree
- Trade-off sliders
- The Product Vision Statement (elevator pitch)
- Design a Product Box
- Is – Is not – Does – Does not do
- Create a NOT list
- Empathy map
- Describe the personas
- Show the User Journey
- Display Features in Journeys
- User Story Mapping
- Tech, UX and Business Review
- Define the MVP
- MVP Canvas
- HDD template
- Product Backlog Building
- Epic/Feature breakdown
- Feature Steps Map
- Looking at our current backlog
- Writing User Stories
- RAID (Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies)
- SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
- This person and That person
- General Behavior activity
- Understanding the group knowledge
- Roles and Expectations
- The Team Vision Statement
- Defining the Team Mission
- Meet your neighbours
- Is – Is not – Does – Does not do (the team and/or a specific role)
- Core hours and team communication
- Defining the Team Principles (Meetings / Communication / Roles / Process)
- Ways of Working: interactions and Scrum ceremonies
- Workflow stages
- Definition of Ready
- Definition of Done
- Value Stream Mapping
- Communication plan
- Class of service
- Capacity planning
- Path to production
- Architecture drawing with the C4 model
- Minimum Viable Architecture (MVA)
- Cross funcional requirements (CFR)
- APA Threat modeling
- In and Out of the circle (CFR for the MVA)
- Impact and Frequency
- Show the solution
- Show me the money
- Planning poker
- Size it up
- MVP Canvas
- Features Sequencer
- Mapping Features to Sprints via User Stories
Research and Design
- User interviews
- User test
- Low-fi wireframing
- Creating Storyboards
- Fake product or prototype Feedback gathering
Why did I write this post?
I am a very experienced facilitator. I am the Lean Inception author — a set-menu for aligning an agile team about the MVP.
From 2006 to 2011 I facilitated many inceptions, varying the activities. From 2011 to 2014, I focused on activities to help align an agile team about the MVP. From 2014 to 2020, the majority of inceptions I facilitated, were Lean Inceptions.
But in 2020, with the pandemic situation, I went back to facilitating any kind of inception (anything to help foster better agile teams!) Then I found myself looking at a large list of activities to decide how to build an inception agenda, according to the team specific goal.
The thing is, I like set-menu. For example: Design Sprint to quickly decide and design a prototype, Lean Inception to align on the MVP. But, some teams just want to open the menu, select and combine a few things.
It took me years to collect, experiment and organize this activity list. But, what if that F* corona virus got me as well?
I don’t want to take decades of inception knowledge with me to the grave. I rather share it, then keep updating this post. I am sure it will be of good usage by my current and future inception facilitator colleagues.
COMMITMENT: I’ll update this post at least once a month (I have to link it to so many other places… I’ll do it incrementally)
Below are a few notes I’ll keep for related content which is not yet posted
Defining Success Criteria : What does success look like? How will we measure success? What are some of the key metrics across these various lenses? How do we know if it is successful? How do we know of it is a failure?
Architecture Current State: What is the Architecture Current State? Let’s look to align everyone on our common understanding and answer any questions and share relevant information about it. This will be the baseline to discuss the Architecture future state and how we will transition from the current the to future state.
Path to the Future State Architecture: What is the Future State the Architecture? How do we get from the current state to the future state? The goal is to paint a high level view of the end state and interim stages to get there. We will create a map with the steps/activities/components needed to achieve the high level future architecture.
Testing Strategy & Roll Out : What is our Testing strategy? How does it relate to the roll-out of new features.