Contributors’ cheat sheet

Inceptions are a team sport and are made successful by collaboration with the right mix of stakeholders. If you’re invited to an inception, it’s likely you have a related outcome to achieve, you are a key-decision-maker, you control resources, you are impacted by the decision(s) that will follow, you hold vital relevant knowledge or skills, or you will benefit from being involved in some other way.
Being part of an inception – in any role or capacity – is your opportunity to state your expectations and concerns, shape and provide direction, help others to succeed and otherwise get as much value from the process as you can.
Whether you own / pay for / benefit from the final outcome, deliver or operate it, or you are simply supporting with your skills or knowledge, the following thoughts will help you take part in an inception.
Understand why you are participating, what you are being asked to contribute, and what you want to get out of the Inception. Ask yourself:
  • What are my goals and expectations?
  • What do others expect from me?
  • What information do I need?
  • What do I want to share?
  • Is there anything I need to prepare beforehand? (We are big fans of lean working, so don’t write that 100 page requirements document – but bring it along, if you have it).
  • As each session kicks off, ask yourself “What do I need from this session to feel confident that I can make decisions and complete resulting actions as part of Inception or delivery? And what do others expect from me?”
  • Lead in your discipline, and support others in achieving their goals.
  • Where discussions get complicated (or heated), relieve pressure by being empathetic to other participants.
  • Help gain clarity and insight.
  • Take notes of the dynamics you’re observing, where you think there might be unaddressed (or taboo!) topics and risks; raise these with the group or a trusted party so the problem can be addressed.
  • Retrospect as an opportunity to improve, fine-tune and adapt the Inception.
  • Reflect; distil learnings and insights that will inform the next stages of the Inception.

Pro tips

Focus on breadth by default, only going deep in areas of particular complexity and risk. Don’t get lost in the details of your area of work. This is a team sport with shared goals.
Process findings at the end of each day, so you are prepared for the next day and insights don’t get lost. Don’t do long nights and burn out. Ask if you need extra time; explore adjusting the schedule if necessary.