CS-EE-ME 75, Fall 2015: Sample GOTChA

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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. A sample goal is "Design, document and build a vehicle capable of competing in the 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge".
  • Objectives - a concrete specification of whta 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".
  • 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):

GOTChA chart for <group>, Fall 2015

Goals (1-3)
  • Describe the goals of your project, in plain English
  • Description should be understandable to your engineering friends (avoid jargon)
  • Tie to the overall project goal
Technical Challenges (4-8)
  • List of problems that you expect to face in accomplishing your objectives
  • Try to list anything that you are not sure about
  • OK to include things that you don’t yet know (eg, programming in C/C++, implementing a vision algorithm, etc)
Objectives (3-6)
  • Specific tasks that you need to complete in order to accomplish your goals
  • Objectives should be “SMART”
    • Specific - concrete descriptions
    • Measurable - can tell whether you accomplished them or not
    • Attainable - possible to complete in time available
    • Relevant - lined up w/ system spec
    • Trackable - possible to monitor progress as you go
  • Guide: try to include numbers and dates, when possible. Assume that any "wiggle room" in your objectives will be used against you.
Approach (4-8)
  • Describe how you are going to tackle the technical challenges that will let you accomplish your objectives to satisfy your goals
  • Make sure all of the technical challenges are addressed (otherwise how will you overcome them?)
  • Can serve as a work plan for the term - what do you want to do first, next, etc

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What's the difference between a goal and an objective?

A: 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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Q: Where can I find some examples of good GOTChA charts?