The diagram below illustrates a generic 1 week Inception Schedule (which can be compressed or expanded as required for shorter / longer Inceptions).
To create your schedule, follow the steps in this chapter. See further guidance in our Planning an inception: deep dive.
1. Schedule sessions
To create the schedule, break down your agenda (created in the previous step) into individual sessions and turn them into a schedule like the one to the left, allowing for the framing, top and tail ceremonies.
Consider the incremental and iterative nature of good knowledge gathering and solution synthesis: allow for multiple points to reflect, revisit and validate topics as more information comes to light. Also acknowledge that many activities will be continuous (i.e. you may have a specific risk session, but risk can be identified at any point in time, and needs to be recognised and addressed).
Ensure the agenda is well-balanced and interesting (i.e. provide a good mix of topics and approaches).
Don’t overload your agenda. It’s very easy to burn your team out. To avoid this, ensure you allow reasonable time for preparation and post-processing.
Ensure a good balance between scene-setting, investigation and creating the solution, allowing for divergence (breadth and depth) and convergence (bringing it all together). This will set you up to come to better alignment and decisions.
2. Set the location
Inceptions are all about communication and building relationships. The location makes a big difference. By default, we opt for co-location especially for a new team or engagement. We have also run smaller inceptions with established clients very successfully with distributed teams.
Be mindful of the impact of not being co-located. Expect things to be more difficult, and to take more time. Distributed inceptions become increasingly harder with more participants, cultural differences, or if you have yet to build relationships.
Adjust session length. For instance, you may plan for a much shorter session duration when conducting a phone conference rather than face-to-face meetings.
Select convenient and pleasant locations. You’ll spend a hell of a lot of time in that room. Make it convenient for people to get there (and select one where the Wifi actually works...)
Consider taking clients out of their ‘natural environment’. They will be more focused as a result. Plus it’s a pleasant change.
3. Assign participants
Work with the right people. Ensure you have a good mix of decision-makers, subject matter experts and champions in the room, across all relevant areas of the business. Only then can you be successful. For each session, be clear:
Who you’ll want to attend from the core inception team (unless we’re talking very specific deep dives, the answer should be “all”)
Who will be leading / facilitating the session
Which client stakeholders you want to attend, and in what capacity
In Plan an inception: deep dive we provide further information on team composition and related considerations.
Collaborate with your client contact to identify the right participants. Specify what you need, then let the client advise on who should be involved.
Don’t take ‘We don’t need Alice, Bob knows all about it’ for an answer when Bob is not performing Alice’s job. You want to hear it from Alice herself. One caveat: we often struggle to get access to real users during an inception so assumptions are often tested with users afterwards.
Make sure participants are available. Have your client communicate with their colleagues, and book them in.
Expect participants’ availability to change, and unexpected participants to emerge. Be prepared to adapt the attendee lists and inceptio schedule to cater for their inclusion. After all, an inception is all about collective exploration to derisk.
Ensure participants’ buy-in. Choose a client champion and provide them with ‘ammunition’, and then ask them to ‘sell’ their colleagues onto the idea of this inception.
Engage with the traditionally unloved roles, such as infosec, compliance and customer support as early as possible. Use every opportunity to build relationships!
4. Finalise, communicate and confirm
Ensure that you have a well-balanced and flowing agenda that works for all stakeholders. This includes your team, as well as the client and other participants. We suggest that you createa presentation deck covering each step / activity to structure and guide the inception. This can also be used to capture, share and playback information.
5. Get ready
Make sure you’ve got your act together and are set up to succeed: