Design an inception agenda

CONTAINS A DETAILED TOOL LIST AND OTHER COOL STUFF

We use our generic Inception Blueprint as a starting point, but always tailor it to fit each specific initiative. This chapter provides in-depth guidance for each step and activity in the inception agenda.

Kick Off

MANAGE EXPECTATIONS OF WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN DURING THE INCEPTION

First impressions are always important – this is your opportunity to make it count

You may find yourself in a room with 30 people you don’t know (some of whom may not want you there), or in a room with a small team you’ve worked with before.

Why

This activity positions everything that follows. We manage expectations, allowing each person to understand how they fit in and how to plan their time. We start to build relationships, address worries and concerns and get participants to buy-in.

What good looks like

We want everyone in the room to understand the objective, how they can add value and why attending is important for them.

Activities

WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS TO ORGANISATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS

Who is in the room and why?

Usually done by a client senior stakeholder.

This sets the scene as to why everyone is here. If done well it reinforces importance, provides focus, creates the necessary empowerment, clarifies boundaries and sets the basis for good collaboration.

An introduction of the various organisations and individuals ensures everyone understands why they (and everyone else) is participating, what they are expected to contribute, and what they can expect from the upcoming sessions.

Recommended tools and techniques

I want to build relationships

Icebreakers are tongue-in-cheek, off-topic activities or questions that relax the room and often allow individuals to introduce themselves. This is the first step to building personal relationships. However, be mindful of cultural factors when playing this.

SCENE SETTING

Why are we doing an inception, and what is an inception in the first place?

As an explanation of why the inception was arranged, the overall goal here is to illustrate how we will go about achieving the objective.

SCHEDULE WALKTHROUGH

What will be happening during the inception?

A top-level walkthrough of the inception schedule to manage participants’ expectations, clarify why and where individual participants are expected to attend, and to allow individuals to manage their time.

Recommended tools and techniques

I want to track work in progress

Use a kanban board to visualise upcoming activities and track progress – both daily and across the ineption as a whole.

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

How will we make this work? What does good look like?

We share concepts of how we’ll approach the inception. This includes thoughts on interaction, collaboration, agile and iterative practices.

We cover aspects like the attendance needed, decision making frameworks we’ll use, mobile phone use during sessions, ensuring we work breadth-over-depth, that there’s an exchange of value, etc.

This is our chance to set expectations on the level of involvement and interaction participants should expect. It defines what good looks like, plus anti-patterns we may want to discourage.

PARTICIPANT EXPECTATIONS

What are the participants’ expectations, wishes and concerns?

Check and address participant expectations in regards to ways of working and outcomes. This is important, to ensure we’re not losing people before we have started.

I want to track items to be addressed later

Use a parking lot to place notes of any activities, actions, thoughts or questions we must not forget.

1-2-4-All

I want to share thoughts

Use this technique to enable individuals or groups to share thoughts. Feel free to jump right to 1-All if appropriate.

Pro tips

The general welcome and scene setting are best done by a senior client, for instance the sponsor. After all, they tend tend to have the hard power in the room.

Keep this session brief, and tailor it to local customs.

Consider name tags for big groups.

When in a team, never present someone else. As credible, mature adults who are equals, we should introduce ourselves, injecting our own personality as we do.

Dress comfortably, but within the cultural framework of your clients. Err on the side of caution.