It Is Not Easy

This article is the fourth in a series of articles about our experience with Lean Inception. Be sure to check out our other posts.

You Will Revisit Earlier Work

When you first look at Lean Inception with its breakdown of exercises and its week-long timeline, it looks straightforward—a simple process of stepping through one target after another and building a final collection of artifacts and shared understanding about the product. In practice, however, it is deceptively complex. 

Since many exercises depend on previous artifacts, you will frequently need to step back and remind yourself of past decisions. For example, as we proceeded to develop product features, we had to revisit the product vision and goals. Product goals that the team had previously agreed were clear and appropriate became ambiguous when attempting to create product features aligned to those goals. This mirrors what we see with our customers developing products; catching this early in product development prevents misunderstandings later.

The Glossary Should Be Updated Constantly

It's essential to have a list of common terms to ensure clear and fruitful communication.

What Lean Inception doesn’t tell you is that over the course of the week you will build a complete product domain. We recommend making extensive use of the glossary, not only to define how you’re using common language, but also to build out parts of your domain as you build it. Being able to refer back to the glossary at the end is invaluable.

We also recommend a sub-section of the glossary for ‘out of bounds’ terms. We all have terms from previous projects that make our skin crawl, and it’s best to set those aside so they don’t get in the way.

Estimating Is Hard

Successful estimating relies on a certain amount of guesswork and uncertainty, which can make the process hard—really hard. The Technical, Business, and UX Review is a tough exercise, even for seasoned developers; the same can be said for the final estimate in the Canvas. For both of these exercises, the facilitator will have to work hard to keep participants from overthinking their best guesses—because that’s what estimating is: making best guesses.

Ensuring everyone is clear on the scope of the estimation, keeping the discussion time brief, and focusing the discussion on values that are wide in scope will help to make it a quick and clean process. If it isn’t quick and clean, then maybe it needs to be broken down for better discussion.

Pump the Breaks

Frequent breaks not only provide a chance for mental refreshment, but also help avoid hangry disagreements.

Be sure to plan lots of breaks. We thought we had worked in enough breaks, but we didn’t anticipate how wearing these exercises would be. As we proceeded, we could feel the energy wearing down and participation waning as we tried to keep our momentum until the next break. In the end, the time spent on timely breaks will pay back in more valuable outputs from refreshed minds.