In order to do the right thing in the right way, we follow a number of principles and practices which, in our experience, have led to good outcomes.
START FROM BEST PRACTICES - TAILOR TO CONTEXT
The guidance in this playbook will give good results, but must be tailored to the initiative at hand before you get started.
PREPARE WELL - WORK LEAN
Do not underestimate the difficulty of running an inception well. First impressions count, and one day’s preparation for a full inception is rarely enough. At the same time, there’s no point in doing too much preparation for an inception – it would likely be based on too many assumptions.
DO THE MINIMUM - DON’T MISS THE BIG RISKS
In order to be successful with an inception, we can’t go into everything in detail. In fact, too much detail too early creates waste, as information becomes stale over time. The solution is to analyse the domain at breadth, and deep-dive sparingly into areas of high risk and complexity.
WORK BREADTH OVER DEPTH - DON’T FLUSH ALL DETAIL OUT
Again: an inception is there to decide whether to proceed, and if so, to align on scope and approach, and set the team up so they can hit the ground running. This means that we don’t have to answer everything. We deliberately want to leave details for delivery. Where we come across a big, strategic question we can’t answer during inception, we flag this as risk and provide an approach on how to answer this later. This can be a caveat to our recommendation.
BUILD RELATIONSHIPS - COMMUNICATE
Transparency, honesty and empathy will build high-trust relationships over time. Clearly communicate so everyone is on the same page and is comfortable that they know what’s happening.
Inceptions are made successful by cross-functional, multi-stakeholder input and alignment. Involve the right people for the right reasons.
ENGAGE WELL - BALANCE STRUCTURE AND CONTENT
Present, communicate and engage well. Different stakeholders react to different stimuli and different organisations expect different things. We believe visualisations help communication– structure and content are both important.
CONTROL THE DISCUSSION - READ THE ROOM
While it’s important to be in control so we get what we need, we also need to have empathy for other participants. Show leadership and control to prevent digression, but be humble, respectful and receptive.
PROJECT COMPETENCE - DO INFLUENCE - DON’T BE A DICK
As experts, we’re expected to provide our expertise to help the wider team gain insight. We’re also expected – professionally obliged, arguably –to ‘nudge’ people to do the right thing. However, we need to be mindful of our biases (and those of others). And of course, no-one appreciates arrogance. Be humble, be professional and clearly state your point of view, but also know when to shut up.
FOCUS ON OUTCOMES - ALWAYS START WITH THE USER
Everything we do is ultimately for people. Even the most technical initiative has some users that have needs, and expect to be able to get their tasks done. Be sure to understand them – add product thinking to the mix and clearly articulate expected outcomes.
DELIVER ACTIONABLE RECOMMENDATIONS
Focus on, and drive towards outcomes and goals. Form a hypothesis and validate it at the earliest opportunity. Present the client with actionable recommendations they can use for decision making and to inform their next steps.
MAKE THE CALL - REFLECT
Reflect periodically, and take time to create the recommendation at the end of the inception process. Be true to the client and your team as to whether the endeavour is desirable, viable and feasible.