We take the following into consideration when scheduling an inception:
How long is an Inception?
The length of an inception largely depends on the type and complexity of its related initiative. We‘ve run inceptions that took just half a day (for new features) and some that took six weeks (to support the building of a business case for a new product line).
Our average, though, two weeks is sufficient for a substantial multi-million pound, 12+ months initiative. We often add a further week (elapsed time) to plan the inception and a further two weeks to process the outputs of the inception.
How long are individual steps and activities?
Again, the answer is that it depends. Some activities are one-offs, while others require multiple rounds of discussion and analysis before sufficient understanding or consensus is reached.
As an example, for a sizeable product such as a greenfield supply chain tool, expect multiple story-mapping sessions to outline scope, and multiple discussions to agree the tech stack.
What does a ‘good’ schedule look like?
The inception schedule is a carefully constructed flow of activities that facilitate analysis and drive insight and outcomes. While the activities are specific to each inception, they happen within a fairly consistent framework. Feel free to check out this sample inception schedule.
A good schedule characteristics:
CLEARLY DEFINED OUTCOMES
We define clear goals and outcomes for the overall inception and each activity and session.
We structure the inception agenda and schedule along a clear narrative that links the various activities towards delivery of the ultimate outcome.
We opt for running all activities of an inception consecutively and as close to a full-time exercise as possible. This is especially the case for large or complex initiatives. In well known or less risky situations we have run two days’ worth of inception activities over a week.
Individual activities may be one-offs or require multiple sessions (to look at the problem from multiple perspectives, allow for different participants to attend, or to allow sufficient time to analyse, process and validate).
CATERING FOR PARTICIPANT AVAILABILITY
We always expect to have to tailor our schedule to match (client) participant availability.
ALLOWING FOR SLACK
Things usually take longer than expected. We always build some slack into our schedule to allow for post-processing, ad-hoc changes, and additional sessions that will be required as we explore and get to know the problem domain.
CLEARLY ASSIGNED ROLES
The best outcomes are achieved when participants understand what is expected from them, and what they can expect from both the overarching inception as well as the individual activities and sessions. This includes aspects such as who facilitates, who makes decisions and who contributes subject matter expertise.
BY-IN AND ALIGNMENT ACROSS ALL PARTIES
Ultimately we need to ensure that we can be successful in achieving the desired outcomes. We achieve this by aligning all stakeholders across client and supplier, and all relevant disciplines on what they need to bring to the table.