How to Start an Engineering Consulting Firm of One | Redshift
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I have seen inceptions conducted with several remote attendees before, but having participated in Inceptions remotely myself I got less out it and the team got significantly less out of my participation compared to in-person Inceptions. Sometimes remote attendance cannot be avoided due to real-world constraints.
In these situations, try to use the best remote presence technology available such as high quality microphones and stand-alone video cameras. Using low-quality built-in laptop mics and cameras enable participants to get distracted with email and web browsing. Typical Inception Agenda Introductions - Keep the introductions brief as you will be spending most of the day together as a team and will get to know each other well throughout the day.Sam Smith - Too Good At Goodbyes (Official Video)
It can be helpful to have the facilitator prompt each attendee for a few key pieces of information such as who they are and why they are here. Vision and Goals - The project sponsor and product owner should deliver a succinct long-term vision for the project and indicate what the immediate goals are for the next few months. Allocate time for questions and discussion from the group. Non-Goals - Just as important as the goals, it is important to explicitly state what are not immediate goals.
Often times stating non-goals clearly is a way to constrain scope for the current work stream and give the team permission to deliver value faster by excluding certain things that may be wanted eventually, but not essential to have now.
Make sure to allow time for group discussion on non-goals. Risks - Everyone in the room should identify the main risks for the project using the index cards. Have each person write down one risk per index card using as many cards as they wish.
The facilitator should categorize the related risks together in a stack of index cards, reading them off and providing a chance for people to explain the brief definition of the risk they wrote down.
This is not the group discussion of each risk yet, this is just to understand what the risk may be. Then the facilitator should instruct everyone to use the candy or props for voting and give each person 3 votes to place on the categories with the highest risk to the team achieving the project goals.
Elon Musk tweets video of 'kid-sized submarine' for use in Thai cave
You may cast all 3 votes for one category of risk or spread out votes on up to 3 separate categories. After voting the top categories of risk should be discussed with the highest number of votes going first.
Note the categorized risk ranking on the whiteboard or with a photo. The team should redo the risks voting exercise at the end of the day and see if anything has changed. It almost always does. I have observed the approach used to elicit the roles or personas vary a lot from simply having the product owner state who they are authoritatively to having the whole group do a brainstorming exercise. They key objective is that everyone on the team understand who the users are.
The facilitator should pick an approach that is well-suited for the group dynamic. It can be as simple as asking the product owner to identify the key activities and allowing for group discussion or it can be something more creative like a game. These high level descriptions of how the user interfaces with the system to accomplish something form the basis for project epics and can typically be broken down later into stories. Stories - If there is time, break the activities and workflows down into smaller, concrete actionable stories.
Do not worry about being too precise with the wording. The product owner can refine the language and details later. Sometimes there is not time for this activity during the Inception itself and the higher level activities and workflows are the granularity that must be used for estimation and prioritization. This is okay as it is the product owners job to work with the development team lead to ensure the stories do get written as fast as possible following the Inception. Estimation - For the most important stories, quickly get a rough estimate from the developers in the room.
If you estimate at a story level, try to use the point system and sizes your team will use during development.
Elon Musk tweets video of 'kid-sized submarine' for use in Thai cave | News | The Guardian
If you are at an epic, activity or workflow level then try to use a rougher estimate like developer weeks. If you have a large number of items to estimate, my colleage Evan Willey recommends the Affinity Estimating. The important result is that client sponsors and the product owner receive estimates directly from the team responsible for the implementation. Prioritization - Have the product owner put the stories in priority order and allow for group discussion and validation.
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Make Connections, and Follow Up Knowing where to find opportunities is one of the biggest struggles for freelance engineering consultants.
Going to industry meet-ups in your area is a great way to start. Be sure to include what you talked about and what a next step could be. Following people on Twitter that you meet in real life is an easy way to stay connected with potential clients.
Be Smart About Quoting and Scheduling Quoting a project for the first time is difficult, but asking people who have done similar projects is a good place to start. On a quote, I inform my clients that a cost for materials, not factored into the pricing, will be added. If a client wants me to do electrical work in addition to mechanical work, I know I need to subcontract an electrical engineer.