Frame, Top and Tail
The activities we run during an inception fall into two groups: sessions during which we run the activities that help us deliver the expected outcomes, and the Frame, Top and Tail activities. These are the supporting activities that facilitate, structure and optimise our inception. The inception schedule illustrates these, and we’ll discuss each type below in more detail:
We like being well prepared. Plus, no matter what we do, there will always be cases where we’ll just have to wing it – so let’s not add to them.
Every day, before you enter the room, you will want to briefly regroup with your team (and maybe close clients) to make sure you’re all set for the day ahead by being aligned on what you want to achieve and how you will run each session.
In our experience, setting up on the first day is always a bit different. We may not know the location, we may have to go through lengthy check-in procedures and getting onto Wifi can occasionally be less than straightforward.
With the inception kick off, we begin our inception. It’s our chance to meet and greet and set the scene. In some respects this is the single most important meeting. We discussed this further in Design an inception.
Where you are dealing with a large number of (changing) participants, or clients that are new to agile practices or inceptions, consider holding regular recap sessions where you re-iterate principles, progress and goals to focus the team and provide reassurance.
We need to be considerate of inception attendees and respect that most will have day jobs. It can be helpful to cater for daily slots for clients (in particular) to catch up on urgent work.
We usually run retrospectives jointly with some of our closer clients. These are an opportunity to reflect on how things are progressing in terms of our objectives, and cultural fit. Are we learning what we need to? Have we missed something big? Is progress looking good? Is everyone engaged? Do people see the value? What concerns do we need to address? What insights have come to light? We use these questions (and more!) to adjust our approach as we go along.
We run retros at end of each day, week and inception. The final retrospective is run with our clients to get their views on how the inception went. We use this to improve the engagement, as well as future inceptions throughout our network.
This is an opportunity for the core team to reflect, discuss learnings, concerns, needs to shift or pivot, add / remove sessions, adjust methodology, approach and engagement techniques. In our experience, inceptions frequently require adjustments to cater for client preferences, availability and culture.
We also recognise that we must allow for some time to write up and process learnings from the day. This is particularly important to drive upcoming sessions, and stay abreast of the documentation needed. Be very careful not to run eight hours of workshops and then post-process for another eight hours. Trust me, we’ve done it, and it’s not pretty. Six hours of actual workshops in a single day is about right as a maximum).
The inception playback is the final presentation of our findings to our clients. We start with the brief and our agreed inception goals, and present our insights, findings and recommendations. We need to be sure we are answering the brief well.
In the case of long or complex inceptions we may want to run a demo or playback session to demonstrate status and progress. We usually do this as the last session of the week.
Also, don’t forget to create an deliverable to leave with participants. This could be a presentation deck or some other form of artefact so that our clients can peruse, refer-back to and share the inception outcomes.