GOTChA charts are a simple project management tool that we use in CS/EE/ME 75 to keep track of the overall project activities as well as the activities of the individual teams. A GOTChA chart is an attempt to summarize in one page what you are trying to do on a project. The idea for GOTChA charts comes from Pratt and Whitney Corporation, which makes jet engines. Richard Murray learned about them when he spent two years working for United Technologies, the parent company for Pratt.
Contents of a GOTChA chart
A GOTChA chart has four main elements:
- Goals - a high level description of what you want to accomplish, in plain English. Your goals should give a clear description of what you hope to accomplish in the overall timeframe of the project. There are two ways to write this:
- A few bulleted phrases that describe what you want to accomplish in plain English. A sample goal is "Design, document and build a vehicle capable of competing in the 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge".
- A short paragraph that is the abstract to the conference/journal paper that you will write at the end of the project.
- I prefer the second style.
- Objectives - a concrete specification of what you want to accomplish, with numbers and dates, when appropriate. Objectives are something that you can measure whether or not it has been completed. They should support the overall goals, but should be much more specific and concrete. A sample objective is "Demonstrate autonomous driving for 10 miles at an average speed of 5 miles per hour by end of summer". A 10 week project will typically have 4-6 objectives.
- Technical Challenges - a list of the "hard parts" of accomplishing your goals and objectives. Try to keep the list fairly short (3-5) items and focus on those parts of the problem that are the true showstoppers. A sample technical challenge is "Getting stereo vision to work sufficiently fast that we can recognize obstacles in time to stop".
- 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.
This information is most easily presented in the form of a quad chart, which can be laid out in powerpoint or HTML (or wiki):
A short abstract (2-4 sentences) that summarizes what the main results will be at the end of the project. Think of this as the abstract of the paper that you would like to write when the project is over. At most 1 sentence "intro" and then 2-3 sentences describing the contributions (outcomes) of the project.
Using GOTChA charts for proposing a project
The most common usage of a GOTChA chart is to propose a project. The chart provides a succint summary of what the project is about and how it will be accomplished.
Using GOTChA charts for tracking an activity
Another use for GOTChA charts is to track progress on a project. In this context, it is convenient to use a slight modification of the GOTCha chart in which you list the top 5 problems you are worrying about as your technical challenges and give your activities for the next week in the approach section. In this way, the GOTChA chart is organized from your long term to short term goals.
When using a GOTChA chart in this form, it is often useful to highlight was has changed from week to week. This can be accomplished by highlighting all new items on the chart in blue (or some other color that stands out) and visibly striking out any text that is no longer relevant. This gives a particularly visible description of where changes occur.
Frequently Asked Questions
What's the difference between a goal and an objective?
Goals describe what you plan to do in plain English. Thinks of this as the type of thing you might use to describe what the team is doing to one of your friends who is not part of the project. The intent of the goals section of a GOTChA chart is to capture the high level vision of what you plan to get done.
Objectives are concrete and measurable. They should be something that you can say that you either accomplished or didn't, and there won't be any disagreement.
- Goal: complete integration of all sensors that will be used for the race
- Objective: mount all stereo camera pairs on vehicle by 6/1/05 and verify they meet project specifications for range and angle.