Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lifecycle of a project: What's wrong with this picture?

This weekend, I attended a Design Hack session for CivicLab, a new effort in Chicago inspired by Milwaukee's; an institution that fosters member-driven civic and creative projects and activities.

There were several discussion groups taking up various themes. Since it seemed well correlated to what I do at work, I joined one about the lifecycle of activist projects and campaigns. Quite a few other software geeks took part, too.

The facilitator kicked things off by putting the following illustration on the board. Take a look, do you see anything wrong with this picture?

I quickly killed my good will with the facilitator by pointing out that Inception was a noun and Execute a verb. You don't execute at the end of a process, you execute all the way through a process. Someone else jumped in and observed that a lot of preparation has to happen before you can do an Inception. Another person wondered where Feasibility studies fit. And so on.

In the end it was a good discussion, enough for two or more blog posts but what I've been pondering all day is what kind of diagram would have said it better?  This is what I came up with:

Execution happens throughout a process. Throughout a process, research and investigation are happening to detect problems and opportunities. At any time, ideas may pop up, or you may set aside specific brainstorming sessions. Ideas, and problems and opportunities have to be prioritized. Problems and solutions have to be validated and evaluated - are they real problems? Will the solutions work? Will people adopt the solution as designed? Is it cost effective? Prototypes at varying levels of fidelity are in order throughout the process.

Feeding into all of this is an understanding of the context; the bigger environment of the problem and the people you want to assist: politics, money, geography, values, culture, etc.  Understanding the context and where you are in the process determines what tools will be useful in the execution of any phase.