Writing an Inception Deck



  • I am reading the book "The Agile Samurai" and it talks about Inception Decks and Elevator Pitches. I am wondering how to apply it.

    For example, an Inception Deck is to clarify:

    • why are we doing the project
    • what the project is

    ...which I suppose should correspond with what the stakeholder wants, but what if the stakeholder answers with "what do you think??

    I like very concrete things. My system will do this and that, and won't do this and that. But then the stakeholder says "what do you think?" and I tell him and he says... ummmmm not quite but never gets concrete and precise on what does he want

    Is there a way to get things concrete and clear? Any strategy to talk with vague people?



  • Implement Iterative Analysis Through Collaborative Dialogue

    [Is there a constructive] strategy to talk with vague people?

    Note: The way you structured your original question may get it closed as "opinion-based," but with a little editing I think the core of your question as quoted above is quite relevant to chartering and managing any project. The original question could just benefit from a little editing to make it less of an opinion poll and more likely to garner a (potentially) canonical set of answers.

    As your question is tagged /questions/tagged/agile , it's definitely worth considering iterative clarification techniques such as the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_whys . The central notion here is that you're already receiving validated learning from your initial presentation in whatever format, whether it's a pitch deck, a lengthy strategic roadmap, or some notes on the back of a napkin. The problem you're describing is that the feedback isn't yet detailed enough to be actionable, so you can't address the real underlying questions or adjust your planning. Iterative questions can help.

    Ultimately, any effective agile approach is built on collaboration and communication. In cases like this one, you need to facilitate the dialogue in order to identify the root cause of the disconnect or clarify real requirements.

    A Worked Example

    Consider the contrived example below. In this example, the Q&A is inverted from the problem you describe as the clarifying questions are coming from a key stakeholder rather than from the product or project manager. However, the example still illustrates the technique quite effectively.

    1. Product Manager: I think we should kick of a new program to sell embiggened widgets to Lilliputian factories.

      Business Stakeholder: I don't get it. Why is that a good idea?

    2. Product Manager: Well, the Lilliputian factories need the parts, but their equipment is too small to manufacture the embiggened widgets themselves.

      Business Stakeholder: Okay, but Lilliputians are small, and so are the machines they build. Why is there a market opportunity with this program?

    3. Product Manager: We'd have a first-mover advantage with the entire manufacturing industry of Lilliput.

      Business Stakeholder: Well, our current die stamps are all designed to ensmallen widgets. Why do you think we can switch to embiggening?

    4. Product Manager: We already have a cross-functional team of machinists with the tools to cast new dies, and we could have the production line up and running in less than 90 days.

      Business Stakeholder: That sounds fine so far as it goes, but why do you think we have the people power or budget to do this right now?

    5. Product Manager: We were 25% under budget last quarter, so we already have the estimated cash required on hand. And since our teams are cross-functional, we don't need any additional people because our teams already have excess capacity right now because our regular production lines are running so smoothly.

      Business Stakeholder: That all sounds good, but the steering committee has been shooting down new ideas recently. I'm not sure I want to be the sponsor of this new program.

    How to Leverage Validated Learning from This Analysis

    I bolded the last sentence because that's really the X in this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XY_problem . In this example, the underlying issues that needs to be addressed to get backing for the project are:

    1. Convincing the steering committee rather than the stakeholder that this is a good program to support.
    2. Solving for the stakeholder's concerns about the personal impact of sponsorship on their career or within the company's politics if the steering committee turns down the proposal.
    3. Finding a different sponsor if this particular person can't or won't sponsor it in front of the steering committee.

    By iteratively refining the question through open-ended or targeted questions, you should be able to eventually get sufficient information about whatever the real concerns are. You can then use any or all of the answers as inputs to refine or adjust the proposal enough to build the necessary level of consensus.


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