Agile Inceptions: 5 tips to make them more efficient

Inceptions suffer from the same problems that affect long meetings full of people:

  1. Having a lot of people in a room like your stakeholders, your team, your boss and your boss’s boss means only one thing: long discussions about opinions and points of view, without real hard data to back those opinions, which make discussions even longer. This of course means you can’t obtain much value for your product after these discussions.
  2. It’s normal to also have people connected via video-conference like Skype or Google Hangouts. It’s 2016 but we still have issues with these types of virtual meetings, specially with internet connections not being as good as they should be. This means you’ll probably have to repeat something many times in order for everyone on the other side of the screen to understand what you’re trying to communicate.
  3. Since there are so many people invited to this event, there’s probably more than one that will be late and you’ll have to do a summary of what has been discussed up to that point, only for that person, but wasting everyone else’s time.
  4. The Inceptions I’ve been to have lasted 5 consecutive days. 5 days! 5 days, with at least 10 people in the room, for 8 hours a day… that’s 400 hours of engineers, designers, project managers and executives. Are you sure you need that much capacity in order to know what product to build and set your initial backlog? Do you really need these really expensive 400 hours?

How can we consider this tedious ceremony as the starting point of an “agile” project?

Here are some tips to make Inceptions more efficient:

  1. Whoever leads the inception, either the Scrum Master, Product Owner or even an Agile Coach, must be a really good leader and most importantly have the ability to keep the group focused. Things like personality, communications skills and language do matter.
  2. Stick to the scheduled times. There will be lots of activities during the inception. You have to stick to the start and end times of those activities so the entire process works and you don’t waste everyone’s time.
  3. Review the list of the people you want to invite and keep only 2/3 of it. You really don’t need that other 1/3. There’s always people that don’t have anything to say in these inceptions and you invite them only because you want them to know what has been discussed. You can send them emails later. No need for them to be physically present. You’ll save the company some money!
  4. If someone gets late, don’t repeat what you said before that person arrived. Show some respect to the ones who made it on time.
  5. Have good equipment for video conferencing, meaning good internet connection, microphone and speakers.

With this, you can even shorten your inception times in 1 or 2 days. Really, you don’t need 5 days at all. You will modify things in your product hundreds of times during its development process anyway. Remember you want agility.

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