What problem am I trying to solve or analyze?
The problem I and my fellow teammates are facing is that, every time we have online meetings, we often come up with new goals, but the new goal will always get reduced by the content and situation of this meeting.
To be specific, we used to have the goal to make an app to layout our products, but the idea was canceled due to several meetings we had. This phenomenon leads us to a question: Is this pattern normal for a project like this?
Why is this problem happening?
Based on the patterns and experiences we list out, I found the initial element that determines the problem: How we consider our true strength.
There’s an example we used, during the first checkpoint, our goal before we actually act is use a short video to make a clear understanding for us and our audience about the “application scenario”, “target customer” and the product; but when we are actually dividing into groups to make that video, we found out that the quality is not to our level of expectation.
If the event above is a start, then this is a real critical case:
Our goal before checkpoint1 is to present our final product on an APP we make, but right before the beginning of checkpoint2, we found out the final result is too ideal, because our tech is not enough to support the goal, so after 2-3 meetings we decide to lower our objective to “Making a wechat official account”.
After that, we were always worrying about our capabilities and competitiveness among with our competitors.
What are our opinions and beliefs?
Based on 1v1 interviews for the whole team in my IP, we wrote down two key sentences about the solution:
- Understanding of our speciality and ability
Some of the crew members, especially the project managers, do not have a clear picture of how well can we do the project in certain limited time.
- Understanding of teammates’ strength and speciality
As a manager, my interview target Johnson Chi believes that the event of lowering goals is because the teammates are not ready for the change but also not clear of their job.
So me and my crew-Henry&Steve, start to work on graphing the system model in order to explain the situation of the project based on our view and the answers we got form the 小厨神 members.
The system structure of my Project Track
The CLD basically tells about our understanding of the problem, we first graph it from the center-“Expectation of future investment”, because it represents the self-assessment of the members which supports their choices.
The next element it influences is the “Ability of competition”, it represents our strength relative to the forces in the same industries as our’s. According to the sample graph, it is the thing that causes the project to shrink into lower goals. We don’t have enough strength to battle with the apps that people usually use right now in the market, so we come up with the idea of lower the final product and maybe even build a healthy, collaborative relationship with the hottest apps in the market. In Chinese idiom, we call that “退而求其次”(retreat for the second best).
In the lower right quarter part, we put the “Capabilities compared to the professionals” because we believe that it is the reason why we lower the project to another level, and that is the corrective action due to the sample model.
Finally our “Details of how to cook” became the actual, and we understand it as our actual strength and the starting point where we can show our speciality.
We only put one delay on the CLD, but the delay includes several key points in our action.
The delay is called “Delay of applying details”; in Chinese we separate it into “Delay of gaining the details” and “Delay of applying details”. To gain the details is a progress of gaining feedbacks and iterating our speciality(details of how to cook). The ideal delay is about one week, because the project should be having a output in the checkpoint 3, we decided to set the time between checkpoint 2 to checkpoint 3.
For the “Delay of applying details”, we had to say that it is not settled yet and it might never will, because we will be choosing more and more detail materials&recipes in the future and the delay exists as long as we are still pushing the iteration.
Feedback loops and Behavior over time graph
Although this is a CLD graph, at the beginning we wanted the relationship between elements in the graph to be only the relationship of causes&effect, or “causal relationship”. The only relationship that contains correlation relationship is between the “Detail of how to cook” and “Expectation of future investment”. The relationship is +, because the more we can find on our special strength, the more expectations we will be looking forward to.
Since the loop is a reinforcing one, I drew a behavior over time graph about the bad situation happening right now.
The graph is quite clear and it displays the negative view base on above.
As you can see, the steak of our strength is at the time when we haven’t seek to compete, and it went down when we start to estimate our strength among the competitors in the same industry.
Finally, if we do not fix the problem, we will end up only competing with the weak competitors and the quality will be quite negative.
What will be happening according to the CLD?
This is an events/time graph by Steve, it presents the elements “inside team”, “user’s need” and “function of project” on the left, and using that graph we can see the needs from user is increasing after the first meeting when we get divided into groups. But oppositely the enthusiasm of the team is not enough to support the ideal situation. So the best way of action is to try to make something good happen in the team and cheer everyone up in order to get the efficiency going well.
And that leads us to the next step-Action and Leverage points
Leverage action and Consequences
This is the part where we put most of our focus at, the leverage actions are the actions we come up with our assumptions, it is also our first move in the project.
Based on the mental models and the interviews above, we made two assumptions to the problem:
- Assumption 1: Be optimistic about the downgrading of a goal and consider it to be inevitable.
In this assumption we were trying to solve the problem of treating the “lowering case”, because it happens a lot when a project was first born to the world.
Belief: If everyone is active and does a good job in division of labor, the project will go smoothly
The belief is our future visualization, and division of labor is one of the keys of the leverage point we will be talking about soon.
- Assumption 2: There is doubt and ambiguity about the goal when recognizing the problem, that will lead to the “degradation” of the goal
This assumption is about us trying to manage the recognition of the problem and how we see the problem as one of the troubles we will essentially meet in any projects.
Belief: If everyone’s participation and time of investment for the project can be improved, the project can be carried out efficiently and smartly
The point we would like to begin with is the efficiency of the entire team, because we believe that more views can get us more ways of solving the problem.
Leverage Actions and Effects
We figured out three actions that are based on the analysis above:
- I- Give everyone a working goal, which starts from the overall goal of the project.
This is a very smart action, because this can prevent the dispute and misunderstanding in the group, the problem is based on this issue:
“Everyone’s work objectives are not based on the overall objectives of the project (or the overall objectives of the project are not clear enough to be disassembled”
So the ideal situation is that next time when we are facing a problem after dividing into groups and jobs, we can be very clear of what do we actually want and what is the objective based on everyone’s working goal.
We don’t have the ability to provide everyone their own goals which comes from the main goal
As a project that has only begin for 3 months, the goal of entire project is as a whole, so the members in the group might not be able to handle well with applying their own personal goals
- II- Active communicate in group chat to ensure direct communication.
This action comes from the mental model, because the communication part determines how our information runs, so active communicate is quite well-needed.
But there might be a negative influence though, it might swipe some important information in the group faraway, and then it will be very troublesome to find them, so the next step is to find a more convenient tool.
- III- In the long-term goal management of the project, each person’s responsible role is determined, and only some of them decide to narrow/change the goal
This action comes from the central phenomenon in the system structure, that is the change(lowering) of long-term goals under of non initiative condition. As one of the “Manager” in the project, the pain points I pay attention to can be changed by only the managers of the project team.
So before facing this kind of phenomenon, the group can first carry out risk assessment by a manager and a product person, the main target is to see the gap between the stage of real acting and the ideal target.
The project managers might can’t hold the progress of changing the objective well enough
We only have two managers in the group(Johnson and me), and sometimes we even need other people to replace our position. So if the action is to get the objective controlled by only the managers, we are not sure if they can manage it well.
Other potentially problematic Consequences
- People might consider the lower goal in negative views
Even though we want them to view “Be optimistic about the downgrading of a goal and consider it to be inevitable”, but sometimes people will doubt the possibility of actually making the project come true.
But I understand these effects to be quite easy to fix, because through out time our ability of managing the goal and the project will be able to grow. And our experience of “lowering objective” will get more and more skilled and proficient.
Summary and take-aways
This unit provide a great experience for us, especially in applying what we learn in real problems around us. Compare to the last unit, this unit is more about our lives and we can literally see the effects of our acts because they are near us.
We have done finding a lot of leverage actions using the view both of inside and outside of the group, and the relevant interviews are also very practical, these are the biggest take-aways in this unit.
This is our project track ppt