While some inceptions feel like a major initiative (and may well be!) they are really only the start of the initiative. This is no time to rest on your laurels; it’s the moment to ensure that you’re not losing momentum.
There are four things to focus on at this point:
Present outcomes: Play-back to the team or client what you learned and what your recommendation is and why. Remember to structure this around a meaningful narrative. Hand-over a summary presentation and relevant artefacts to the client.
Make the call: Should we continue with the initiative, pivot or stop? This is a decision that needs to be made by both client and supplier. Perhaps values don’t align, or you don’t believe you can be successful.
Momentum and excitement is great, but don’t let yourselves be rushed into the inception or subsequent delivery. Rushing through can result in pain later on, due to insufficient onboarding or waste from working on low-value “keep busy” work.
Share learnings: Each inception is an opportunity to reflect, learn and improve for future inceptions and initiatives.
Move forward – at the right pace. In some cases, our initiatives have followed on directly from the inception at a sustainable pace. In others, there has been a gap of several months between the inception and delivery (with tools being downed, the team being kept doing busy-work, or a need to provide decision-makers with further detail). Frequently, excited clients will want to rush into delivery literally the day after inception.
Whatever the situation, it’s important to find the right balance between keeping the initiative going in a way that is not wasteful, and ramping up at the right pace (while meeting client expectations for timely delivery).
You can make the call to pivot or stop once you have sufficient information: There is not always a need - or point even - to continue to the bitter end.
Ensure you’re doing the right thing by your client, but also respect your own organisational goals and values. Not all relationships are made to last beyond inception.
Do not let yourself be rushed into delivery, or ramp up too fast; but also communicate the cost and risk of delaying the start, in terms of loss of knowledge or momentum if things drag overly long. Reset the pace from a fast-paced inception to sustainable delivery.
The information gained during inception and the various artefacts produced are not only for the client: they form the perfect basis for knowledge handover where you onboard new team members.
You may find that stakeholders who have not been a part of the inception will attend the inception playback. Structure it so that it works ‘in isolation’. Also, insist on presenting (rather than sending) the results to enable discussions and avoid misunderstandings. For large, high-impact initiatives you may want to consider a detailed debrief with the team and a separate townhall with the wider business.
Challenge your client if they suggest that your inception output can easily be used by another organisation to get right into delivery. Similarly, avoid using another team’s inception as a starting point; inceptions are not cheap, fast replacements for a waterfall specification process. They are crucial for building alignment and trust through a shared experience.