Lean Inception

Podcast Ep. 125: Why You Should Try Lean Inception with Gabriela Corrêa

Lean Inception
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Episode Description:

This week, Dan is joined by Gabriela Corrêa. For the last three years, Gabriela Corrêa has served as an agile coach and Project Manager at BRQ Digital Solutions. Most recently, she has transitioned into the new role of Digital Solutions Specialist within BRQ.

Together, they’re talking all about Lean inception. Gabriela shares about the challenges that teams traditionally face when they’re kicking off a project, how to address these early challenges, the activities that are involved in a Lean inception, how to facilitate a successful Lean inception, and where you can get started with you and your team’s own Lean inception.


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Key Takeaways

  • Challenges that teams traditionally face when they’re starting off a project or are early in the Lean inception:
    • Creating alignment between the whole team and the stakeholders
    • Expectations — it can be hard to guarantee that the product will meet the expectations set in this early stage
    • You may experience issues with the agenda if you do not give yourself and your teams enough time to prepare
  • How to address these early challenges:
    • Have all of the teams focus on the same problems together
    • As laid out in Paulo Caroli’s book, Lean Inception, he suggests that you take five days (an agenda) to align everyone before you begin the project
  • Activities involved in Lean inception:
    • An agenda involving the development team, the active team, and the stakeholders (the goal of which is to provide context to the problems they are facing, the problems the users are facing, and the solutions they are going to create)
    • Creating a product vision (which should be able to be summarized in one sentence)
    • “The Product Is — Is Not — Does — Does Not”
    • “Describe the Personas” to understand the final offer of users (their problems, expectations, etc.)
    • “Discover the Features” which include all of the features you’re going to create
    • “Show User Journeys”
    • “Technical, UX, and Business Review”
    • “Sequence the Features”
    • “Build the MVP Canvas”
  • Common challenges around Lean inceptions and how to address them:
    • Sometimes people are closed off because they believe they already know everything there is to know about the problem
      • Solution: Be open, don’t write off different solutions, and be receptive to suggestions and ideas
      • Solution: Be open, don’t write off different solutions, and be receptive to suggestions and ideas
      • Solution: Don’t throw out your own ideas if they are not used, create a new idea/solution together with your collaborators
    • A lack of understanding around the goal the team is seeking
      • Solution: Have everyone on board with the lean inception workshop
      • (alignment and a clear understanding of the goal can be achieved through this)
    • Sometimes a team of people with very different profiles can seem to “clash” on the surface — but having a diverse team is incredibly powerful and invaluable
    • You all have very different perspectives and backgrounds and can come together to create a new, innovative solution
  • Additional advice and details about the workshop and its activities:
    • The activities are all highly visual
    • In this remote age of working, Gabriela recommends the tools Miro and Mural for digital collaboration
  • Where and how to get started:
    • Check out the book, Lean Inception: How to Align People and Build the Right Product
    • Join like-minded communities online
    • Visit Caroli.org

Mentioned in this Episode:

 
Transcript [This transcript is auto-generated and may not be completely accurate in its depiction of the English language or rules of grammar.]

Intro: [00:03] Welcome to Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought. The podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work and pave the path to better outcomes. Now here’s your host coach, and agile expert, Dan Neumann.

Dan Neumann: [00:16] Welcome to this episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast. I’m your host Dan Neumann. And today I’ve got a guest from farther away than normal? I’m joined today by Gabriella Corrêa, who is an agile coach and project manager at BRQ digital solutions in Sao Paulo, Brazil. So Gabriella, thank you for joining today.

Gabriella Corrêa: [00:36] Hello Dan. Thank you for inviting me. I’m very glad to be here with you and have this, having this opportunity to share my knowledge and some experience so thank you.

Dan Neumann: [00:46] That’s wonderful. Thanks. We crossed paths on a virtual community event that was hosted by Quincy Jordan. It was agile heard around the world and, and you had, uh, some nice perspectives, uh, about agility in Brazil and that you shared there. So I want to appreciate, um, that you, you joined us for that event as well. So our topic is going to be Lean inception. And as some context for getting into that, maybe you could share a little bit about some of the challenges that teams traditionally face when they’re, when they’re starting off a project when they’re in that inception phase.

Gabriella Corrêa: [01:26] Uh, I believe that a huge challenge is create alignment between the whole team and also stake holders because when we start a project or we start to abuse some products, there are a lot of expectations evolved with a lot of results that are expected by like all the, the company. And I believe that it’s pretty hard to guarantee that the product will satisfy all expectations. So that’s the, the main, uh, the new results that the inception before can, can deliver for teams.

Dan Neumann: [02:02] Sure. Yeah. And when we get started, if development team members think we’re doing one thing and, um, you know, other team members think we’re doing something else, it gets very difficult to move the project forward, um, with all those different understandings.

Gabriella Corrêa: [02:20] Yes, exactly. And I believe that’s another, another benefit is that instead of like heavy many meetings, uh, for example, one meeting this week with developer another week next meeting with the holders, like people from business and other one with the financial team, for example, instead of doing these old session and like taking a long time to start with the product, we try to, um, have this faster. So we have everyone focused doing one week or two together for better. We can have this, all information, all this alignment.

Dan Neumann: [03:01] That’s great. And so that, that one week together is the timebox you’re talking about for a lean inception, uh, event.

Gabriella Corrêa: [03:10] Yes, yes. The, this workshop, is basically a workshop and, uh, the recommended agenda, uh, it takes five days. So we basically have five days working with the development team. If they’re working a digital product, uh, we’ll have like stakeholders, people from the business, um, maybe a financial team marketing team as well, and everyone contributing during this whole week. So at the end we have, uh, consolidated for open data information in accountable. So everyone is on the same page and we can start the project as this week.

Dan Neumann: [03:50] That’s wonderful. And you mentioned the recommended agenda, um, that’s uh, recommended as it correct by Paolo Karoli in a, in a book called lean inception.

Gabriella Corrêa: [04:00] Yes. Perfect. Uh, so he uh, is the author of link section, this workshop. Uh, he also created the book. Uh, the book is translated into, uh, some languages English, Portuguese, Spanish, French. So the auditors scan can find the material, uh, on Amazon and so on. Uh, and basically he tried many different, many different agendas and also with the community like me, other trainers, we also help created these agendas. And nowadays, basically after the workshop, we have some activities that are more focused on the development team with, uh, ethical information and of their agenda are more about business. So we get into that weekend, like involve everyone and cover all parts of all the parts of this product.

Dan Neumann: [04:59] That sounds wonderful. I think there are some places I might go where they would say, Oh my goodness, we can’t spend five days of, you know, people’s time to do this lean inception, but I think of the alternative you described, which would be doing it slower, you know, a bunch of individual meetings. And I’m sure I’ve been around teams that have taken months to get through a discovery phase or, um, putting a business case together or coming up with technical designs, whatever those things are that a company might want to do before they start sprinting, that can take a very, very long time. And so it seems like lean inception is designed to address that and launch much more quickly.

Gabriella Corrêa: [05:50] Yes, yes. Uh it’slike, uh, we don’t want to waste time with the wrong product, so how can we be faster? We can be more productive with our product and creating these items that I am talking here. So we know that it’s pretty hard to have five days off a whole team focused on only one activity, uh, many companies. So I am working as a consultant. So I see many companies that believe that this is a waste of time. How can I, for example, how can I, uh, let all my whole team is staying in a room discussing in having me doing a whole week seems to be a waste of time, right? Seems to be that, uh, nobody will be like working kind of work while working during this time. Uh, but I believe that that’s the main, the main benefit we can, uh, have short, shorter meetings, shorter, uh, time of, uh, plenty of work because you’re focused because we have everyone together working collaboratively and, uh, uh, expectations and also billing for the product. So I would say in my experience when I, what I saw, uh, when I, um, when I suggest for our client that this client could try using lean inception for some products, uh, this first experience, this first time, will probably have some issues with the agenda because maybe we didn’t prepare with enough time because we don’t find a proper room when it was a fish face. Uh, but when we finished our first inception, every client is the same situation. Every client wants to have it again for the next product because they see the benefits. So I would, I would recommend everyone to try these workshop or some, some single workshop like these ones. And if you don’t have, if you don’t have enough time to work during like five days, try maybe three days, maybe two days, maybe you can try a shorter agenda, but just try this kind of workshop and you will see the benefit.

Dan Neumann: [08:15]
That’s great. Yeah. And it’s not going to go perfectly the first time, very few times when people try things for the first time, is it, is it perfect? And if it is, it’s probably by dumb luck and not because, you know, it was very intentional. So maybe you could, um, what, what are some of the activities involved in a lean inception? So during this five days, what what’s that like for somebody who participates?

Gabriella Corrêa: [08:43]
Sure. Uh, so we started with, uh, a kickoff is basically an agenda evolving, uh, the development team, the active team of this product, and also stake holders. So we have, uh, on this kickoff, we’ll have some sponsors giving a context of the whole product, a main idea of an overall of, our users, users, uh, which problems is users are facing. And also an idea of the solution that we are going to create. And after this kickoff, which is about like one hour or two hours at max maximum, uh, after that, we start with the research section and to create a product vision. So we can have all the information of the product in only one sentence. So it’s a short sentence for the whole product. Uh, we also have an activity called ease is not this and does not cause, uh, what is out of the scope of this, uh, this product. And it’s also very important to have the, at the beginning because we have the opportunity to also create alignment here of this dictation. Um, probably on the second day, we work with personas to understand the profile of our users, uh, their behavior, their expectations as well, then the problems, their pains then which cause the features. So, uh, having mind this profile of users and the problems that these users are facing, uh, which features then which solution can be there for them. So we discuss all the features that we are going to create on these product. Uh, after that, we also, uh, take a look on the journey user journey for you also understand in which part of the day, the day of our users, our product will be in there. So how can we create a product that we will be, we’ll have seat with our, uh, users and their profiles. So until now we have, we basically had discussions related with, uh, the business and the users, right user experience. Then after this, we start to have more technical conversations. So we have an understanding of the complexity involved with each feature, uh, the effort necessary to build them, uh, the value that they are going to create for our biggest reliever for our users. Um, also with all the information with this technical information, we are able to prioritize our product. So we understand the value that we want to create when they stand out to the effort necessary to delivery. So then we can prioritize and you can create a plan of how we can deliver this product, how we can release it. And at the end we have the MVP covers. Uh, we’ve been typical. We also faxed some metrics and also hypothesis off our business. So, uh, during the release of this product, we can check if we can achieve our goal or we can follow the data of our hypothesis. So with this information data, we can decide if we should, uh, keep this plan of the product or the officials should change that basically, uh, this all methods visit only startup for the idea is I should track data. I should believe this for my clients, uh, as fast as I can. So I will be able to check if I should follow my plan, if I should change something, or if maybe my product doesn’t make any sense. So I don’t waste time and money doing stuff that doesn’t, doesn’t deliver ready for my client.

Dan Neumann: [13:05] Wonderful. And so there was a lot in there, so that was super cool. Yeah. So, um, a couple of things that, that stood out to me, so you’re doing the kickoff. So people involved in the project are all hearing the same thing at the same time. Um, I know there’s a game I played as a child called telephone game where one person says something to the next one, and then they say something to the next one and it repeats down the chain. And the message at the end is unrecognizable from what it started as. And so you’re avoiding that problem by getting everybody in the same room to hear the same thing. And so I love that. Um, as well as your you’re creating the boundary, what, what is the product? What is it not? What does it do? What does it not do? Uh, and then you’re going into the personas and user journey mapping. And then finally, you know, not finally cause it’s weeks later, but second day, whatever you’re talking about, technical, you don’t start with the technical. Um, and it sounded like it was all grounded than in, um, some of the lean startup principles, uh, from Eric Reese’s lean startup, kind of what he’s very well known for, which is how do you measure this and how do you measure if you’re actually delivering something valuable or not? Is that generally correct? Okay. There’s a, there’s a lot in there. Um, and it, it makes me think of, uh, all the different disciplines that are involved in lean startup: From creating personas to a customer journey map to a lean startup canvas. Um, is this a fairly visual activity then? Like all those things tend to get captured on something visual, is that true?

Gabriella Corrêa: [14:52] Yes. It’s, uh, visual all the workshop. Uh, so basically when you were working face to face, uh, we used to have a big room. I, and a lot of whiteboard. So we were like writing everything on paper and put in there in this example, if I put something in the, in the vision and actually it doesn’t make sense, or maybe I had a different understand, we could change everything because we have this, uh, possibility of movement with this. Uh, so it’s pretty visual, everyone working together and changing the papers. Uh, but nowadays with everyone working from home, uh, we are using some tools in order to have some similar environment with also some post-its, uh, so we can like, uh, have the same experience as in a face-to-face workshop.

Dan Neumann: [15:53] Okay. Are there, um, are there any particular tools or are there templates and some of them that you’re using or, um, kind of gets built from scratch? I don’t know if like Miro or mural or, uh, any of those digital collaboration tools have any built in templates or what’s a place somebody might start?

Gabriella Corrêa: [16:14] Um, yes. Uh, I am using miro and also mural. Both of them. They are working, uh, pretty good for me. And we also created some, uh, templates in both of them. So maybe we can also, uh, put them in. We can share this link with everyone on the podcast, uh, because there are in place, uh, already done on the, the mural and miro.

Dan Neumann: [16:40]
Oh, great. There are some built into the tools already. Oh, wonderful. We can put that in the show notes and people can find that, um, this episode at agilethoughts.com/podcast, and there’ll be a whole show notes page there, and we can link off to those, those types of things. That’s wonderful. What are some of the challenges maybe you see people run into, especially if they’re going through a lean inception maybe for the first time or the second time, um, they’re kind of new to it. Are there any challenges that you see recurring?

Gabriella Corrêa: [17:11] Sure. Uh, the first challenge is, uh, to be open for it because, uh, sometimes there are people that are pretty sure they know everything about the product, you know, because I know everything I have, uh, all the features necessary wrote here in my document, in my, in my paper. So, uh, I don’t have some people believe that they don’t have to discuss with other people because we have all the ideas with them. So I believe that there are some, uh, resistance at the beginning with this like sharing ideas and knowledge, uh, and also being able to receive new possessions and new ideas. That’s another, another, uh, challenge. Uh, and I would say that when we imagine a room with, uh, technical people and business people, uh, maybe someone, uh, it’s like the owner of this product and like having all the ideas is like taking care of everything on the product. Uh, maybe there is a risk that some people participating on this sanction, they might be like, uh, afraid, uh, to give new ideas because maybe they are like, Oh, it doesn’t make sense. So I won’t project it. Or it’s like, Oh, I don’t know nothing about this problem. So I don’t have the power to suggest something new. I believe that these, this behavior is some challenge and the facilitator between sections, should they care of it and also help the other participants to be, to be comfortable and creating, uh, an office important to create a safe environment. So everyone will be comfortable to give ideas, uh, to maybe make, make some questions. So it’s pretty important to wear this environment because if someone in the room isn’t comfortable or isn’t like is not participating or just don’t want to be there, but probably this workshop will be, uh, productive and will have the, a good result.

Dan Neumann: [19:27] I think that’s a really important topic with, um, you know, people who maybe reasonably think they know everything about what the product is going to be, but still being open to new possibilities. Um, maybe your favorite feature is not going to get in, cause it’s, it’s not that important or there’s a different technology approach that makes sense. Or you start doing it and you realize this product where we’re shooting for the wrong customer, we’re building the product for this type of user. And they’re never going to use it as you start to do some of your lean startups. I think that’s, that’s a really important topic.

Gabriella Corrêa: [20:10]
Yes. And that’s the, I would say that’s the magic of like working. So imagine if, uh, we are here discussing a product it’s, uh, it’s me. Then we are discussing this product and we have our ideas because we have, uh, some experience and our background. But if you add more to people here with different backgrounds, with different profiles, they probably have other ideas. And we, and that doesn’t mean that we should like throw away our ideas here, but we can create another one together. Right. I believe that’s important. And also because, uh, in this room, we will have people with like different profiles in different domains. And, uh, I can see, like in my experience, I used to be a developer. And during this time, uh, I run many projects where I just received the features like in, uh, imagine a paper with just one sentence and I should understand by myself this feature and create this and the direct, direct feature. But at this moment, I didn’t know. I didn’t have any idea of the value. Uh, the kind of, uh, you, this I’ll go into a fact and how important was this feature? And at the moment, when we give this information for also developers, we can also have more engagement from them. So that’s another aspect to have in mind when working with this kind of workshop,

Dan Neumann: [21:47] The, the ability to engage between the business and the technology, that part.

Gabriella Corrêa: [21:51] Yes, yes. Yeah.

Dan Neumann: [21:53] Yeah. And so many times, uh, when there is just that one line description of a feature, uh, maybe there’s no acceptance criteria because everybody believes that online is going to be sufficient. Um, that creates a lot of difficulty for everybody. Then I see teams, let’s say, if they’re doing this, if they’re following the Scrum framework, they start to refine the backlog and they, they realize they don’t understand very much, or they assume that it’s super complex. And then when they go back to the product owner and check, there’s a bunch of complexity that they imagined, they don’t actually have to make it as nearly as robust as maybe they imagined. And so that conversation, that understanding of the goal they’re seeking is, is really tremendously valuable.

Gabriella Corrêa: [22:39] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh, I cannot, uh, I cannot, uh, say that at the end of the inception, we know everything about the scope of this product, because we are working with, uh, some set of time rights. So maybe like two of work, uh, but actually should have a good idea. We have, we can, uh, reduce our risk because we had this discussion at the beginning instead of like, uh, uh, the team structure, each work here, if this, this product, without knowing, uh, some details of the technology or some, uh, business rules. And if, imagine if we covered some issue in the middle of the product and discover that maybe it will be more expensive to build it, or we take more time to, to pull it all the markets, right. So they get to, uh, reduce the risks here.

Dan Neumann: [23:39] A huge risk reducer. I was wondering is this, um, some teams call some startup activities, they’ll call it a sprint zero, which I think there’s some concern with that. Uh, scrum doesn’t have a sprint zero they’re just sprints. Um, but, but teams will sometimes use that to talk about getting started types of activities. Is this, um, is this a different getting started approach then with, with kind of tangible outputs or I’m trying to figure out if this is similar or different from what maybe someone would think of as a sprint zero?

Gabriella Corrêa: [24:16] Uh, I believe this kind of like with zero, uh, inception, they contribute with each other, because for example, we cannot, uh, just for example, if I have an idea of a product and I want you to deliver this at the market, uh, I won’t be able to do a, to an inception. Just if this information I might have, uh, some research, uh, some more information, more data about my clients, about my users. Um, maybe we can run on that sprint as well. So we have more information about the solution. So with all this information, then yes, you’re able to run an inception and having more details and more information and more knowledge for the whole team. Uh, and also say that after the inception, we will have, um, a backlog in the needle in the level of features. So only the team will be together on the next week, not the whole week, but so maybe one day it’s enough, Uh, just one part of this backlog, maybe the first three features and edit uh, the breaking it down as like user stories, for example, or other kinds of, uh, uh, breakdown that they’re using and that’s with tasks. So, uh, in my experience, what I use it in good for the team, uh, we had this inception and we have a kind of uh, sprint zero creating these that they have this backlog and also creating the environment to, uh, develop the product as well. So creating the pipeline, um, and like, uh, allowing everyone to have access to the database and this kind of activity.

Dan Neumann: [26:11] Sure, sure. Um, yeah, so you’ve got the, the lean inception things you have then, uh, an expansion of the product backlog, more iterating, I’m sorry, more elaboration on the product backlog, and then making sure people have, uh, tools and, uh, access that they need. Um, this, this sounds like a really big topic and that there’s so much, there’s so much people could do. Um, so many different ways to get started. Do you have a recommendation for, for where people might learn about inception and how to, um, maybe how to get started, uh, as, as they continue to learn?

Gabriella Corrêa: [26:49]
Sure. So, uh, the book is available. You can buy it online. Uh, as I mentioned in some languages, uh, there is also some trainings. Uh, I am a trainee. Uh, I am a trainer. Uh, we used to have the training. Uh face-to-face but nowadays the only online, uh, it’s also available in Spanish or English and French maybe. Um, and also I, we can, I can put that also on this website, uh, Caroli.org is also, uh, I will start with a lot of content with a sample from Paolo by itself. Also some other posts from like people from the community that are using inception or are, uh, are also adapting this method and creating something different for their sharing, the experience there. And you find it will be able to find a lot of ideas there, suggestions to start using reception in your company.

Dan Neumann: [27:49]
Wonderful. And that URL was Caroli C A R O L I.org. And we will put a, we’ll put a link in the show notes, but for people who might be wondering how to spell Caroli C a R O L I. Um, anything else people should know before we kind of, uh, bring our time here, um, to a close, what else should people know about lean inception?

Gabriella Corrêa: [28:15] Sure. Uh, so many companies, I would say many companies are using inception. Uh, they’re also usually sanctioned with other techniques. So I would recommend everyone to try take the book, take a look, uh, really there’s some activities that you can use, like maybe just want to teach you for your team and try using these other techniques as well, and about this methods for your context and for your challenge.

Dan Neumann: [28:50] I love it. So this isn’t a all or nothing. People don’t have to do everything that’s in the book or nothing. They can take. Some of these activities, apply them with their team, adapt them to their specific content

Gabriella Corrêa: [29:03] For sure. And also after you try this, this methods and maybe try something else together, uh, share their ideas, we will be able to, we’ll be pretty happy to, to hear you.

Dan Neumann: [29:16]
So Gabriela, thanks a ton for exploring, uh, lean inception with me and with the folks listening. Uh, I think there’s lots of valuable nuggets in there for sure. I’m curious, uh, what might be on your continuous learning journey at this point, whether it’s something you’re reading or watching.

Gabriella Corrêa: [29:33] Sure. Uh, so I’m reading some books and some articles related with non-violent communication. And also, uh, I recommend a book which is pretty good for me nowadays is like working with, with their respect, uh, which is, uh, leading with respect. Uh, this is, uh, is a book telling a story, uh, when we leadership and how to use some lean tools in our day-to-day as a leader.

Dan Neumann: [30:06] Oh, wonderful. So the first one nonviolent communication, um, which I, I know I’ve heard of the topic and it’s not one that I’ve dived very deep into, so that’s that’s cool. And then, um, leading with respect was the other book, is that correct? Yep. Okay. And we’ll put a link to both of those on the show notes page as well. Okay. Well, Gabriela, I just wanted to thank you again for joining on the agile coaches corner podcast. Appreciate it.

Outro: [30:32] This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast brought to you by AgileThought. The views, opinions and information expressed in this podcast are solely those of the hosts and the guests, and do not necessarily represent those of AgileThought. Get the show notes and other helpful tips for this episode and other episodes at agilethought.com/podcast.

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