Saturday, March 08, 2014

Teamwork Brilliance

Teamwork Brilliance

I recently watched a presentation by Ed Hoffman, Chief Knowledge Officer at NASA. His presentation has many good points about project management with knowledge workers, but perhaps the most interesting, and dare I say brilliant approach used in the Cassini/Huygens project to visit Europa, one of Saturn's moons is how architecture and resource allocation was managed.

The problem in brief is that a space mission, must rather like a modern smartphone, deal with tradeoffs between weight, energy consumption, budget and data transmission rates. With 18 or so projects from 17 countries, the normal practice would be that three or four projects would be dropped, because they would be ranked at the bottom of the list.

But in a highly complex project that consists of hundred of scientists and varying degrees of flexibility with respect to technical characteristics and budget available, the NASA project team realized that a formal system for managing trade-offs might benefit from a market place. So they constructed a market, where individual project teams could make trade-offs. Some projects could do with less weight if it they were allowed to spend more for example. The net result of this teamwork inducing allocation approach was the unusual result of all the projects ending up in the mission.

And of course, it's very motivating when this kind of pattern of resource allocation reassures scientists and engineers that their work and careers will benefit.

Quite simply brilliant. There are, I think, lessons here, for architecture, scrum and agile development generally.

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