Start it right

I’ve spent a fair amount of time doing discoveries in the last year.

Some better than others. And I’ve learnt loads.

Something that helps frame discoveries better is shaping them around a decision.

To do this well it’s best to kick off your discoveries with an “inception” meeting.

An inception is a project kickoff session. Everyone who is part of the discovery team should be there. As well as any decision maker or stakeholder too.

This meeting helps you define the right scope and what you need to go find out.

A format for an inception that has worked for me and other teams I’ve helped is:

  1. What is a discovery?
  2. What problem or task have we been given?
  3. Our discovery is to decide [x]?
  4. To make that decision, we need to know what?
  5. What should we do to find out what we need to know?

This format helps get your team focused on the right things. And gives you the space to define what decision you’re going to tackle. As well as the steps you’re going to take to make that decision.

If you don’t have a shared understanding of what decision you’re helping make. Or of what you need to do to support that decision, it’s nearly impossible to do any project justice.

No discovery should start without understanding what issue you’re exploring. Nor should they continue without you understanding what decision you are helping make.

After defining the policy intent or issue to a decision you should discuss as a team what you need to know.

Understanding what a team needs to know is the most important part. This can range from “who are our users” to more specific technical issues.

Even if you only have an hour together, you should spend half your time talking through what you know. And what you need to find out. As well as prioritising what to find out.

Once you’ve defined as a group what you want to find out, you can define some activities you’ll likely do.

This part might be flexible. But it helps push forward your team from things to find out, to what we can do about it.

Continuous inception

There’s no reason to only do this sort of activity at the start of project either.

During the last summer I joined a discovery project several weeks in and struggled a little with the scope. By resetting it with the whole team I caught up but the team could also pivot on what they’d already found.

That meeting shaped the next few weeks and helped us come to a different, better decision.

Get your discovery going by setting the direction. By starting, or restarting, it right.

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