All the planning in the world can be quickly toppled by opportunity. Take, for instance, our recent kickoff with Mission Asset Fund, a nonprofit helping financially excluded communities integrate with the U.S. financial mainstream. We were all set with excellent exercises for our two-day work session. However, it quickly became apparent we could start moving ahead on the project because of one key, hard-to-come-by fact: All the decision makers were in one room.

Instead of going onto our proto-persona activity and user flow exercises we’d prepared (we’re big fans of the Google Sprint Process!), we naturally started “napkin-sketching” simple user flows and interfaces. We saw how much we could plow through in our two days and chose to dive right into our list of project deliverables, one after the next, getting everyone’s “yes” or “no” on each step along the way.

Our idyllic mix of players were: two decision-makers from MAF, two backend development representatives from InCadence Consulting, and two DT frontenders (one designer, Eduardo, and one project manager, myself). The work after our kickoff can now naturally proceed from the group decisions we’ve already made.

The Two Day Time Trial

Knowing we had only two days made us extra efficient. Within minutes of discussing our agenda for the next two days, we had organically begun work on our main tasks for the project. After our first couple of user flow sketches, we were amazed by how efficient this process was. We all saw that getting straight to work addressing our deliverables list was the best use of our time.

Our realization resulted in a slew of user flows and interface mock-ups. Each sketch involved everyone at the kickoff. The MAF representatives knew the personas and common issues, our InCadence team members knew what could be implemented, and we gave our frontend opinions on the feel and flow. It was a superb synergy, particularly having both the client and the developers there to explain the technical dependencies for all the financial, legal, and security aspects of the platform.

On the DT team, we had an interesting role reversal. Because we ran with the process that was naturally evolving, I ended up sketching out the user flows on paper as we moved through our list of tasks, while our designer grabbed his laptop and got everything documented. The whole room chimed in, and we chronicled our game plan for the upcoming weeks.

Best of all, we finished within a minute of our cutoff time, which was 3pm on the second day and just in time for DT’s Oktoberfest celebration.

The Takeaway

Granted, the assembly of key players is hard to come by. But after seeing how much groundwork we covered in two short days, it’s clear that this is a worthwhile set-up to strive for. Not only do we want the right people in the right room, but we want to be agile and adapt our agenda when the workflow is rolling along and feels right.

Because we got the preliminary work settled so early, we now have our marching orders for the next month or two. Sure, there will be places to change course and adjust, but having everyone on the same page makes the project reach its highest potential. We can use agile methods to achieve our overarching objectives — with as much ease as possible.

What are some unexpected successes from your projects not following the initial plan? Share with us below in the comments!