4: Project Management

People use to-do lists, calendar plans and more to organize projects.

In 2006 and 2007 I took part as a junior researcher in a project led by Richard Murray, a professor of the CDS department at Caltech. He used GOTChA charts as the main project management tool.

A GOTChA is a 2x2 matrix with:

  • Goals. A high level description of what you want to accomplish, in plain English. The goal(s) should be a clear description of what you hope to accomplish in the overall timeframe of a project. A sample mission is “Increase sales and profitability of the company in the current year”.
  • Objectives. A concrete specification of what you want to accomplish, with numbers and dates. It must be simple to assess whether or not each objective has been completed. They should support the overall goals, but should be much more specific. A sample objective is “Reach an average rate of 50 new customers per day by the end of December, for the whole month of December.”.
  • Challenges. This is a list of the hard things of accomplishing your goals and objectives. The list should be fairly short (~5 items) and focus on those parts of the problem that are the true showstoppers. A sample technical challenge is “Currently, customers acquired through offline channels (eg. Flyers) don’t come back often enough, making each customer acquired a pain on profitability”.
  • Approach. A list of activities or strategies that you plan to implement to overcome the technical challenges. These activities should provide the justification for why you think you can achieve your goals and objectives in the face of the technical challenges you have described. An example would be “Do offline campaigns only at locations where we are fairly certain that our target customer is willing to interact with us”.

You can present a GOTCahA chart as a table:

Goal
  • Sub-goal 1
  • Sub-goal 2
Challenges
  • Challenge 1
  • Challenge 2
Objectives
  • Objective 1
  • Objective 2
Approach
  • Approach 1
  • Approach 2

You can also present it as a tree:

  • Goal 1
  • Objective 1
    • Challenge 1
      • Approach 1
    • Challenge 2
      • Approach 1
      • Approach 2
  • Objective 2
    • Challenge 1
      • Approach 1
  • Goal 2
  • Objective 1
    • Challenge 1
      • Approach 1
      • Approach 2