The Value of Scale

April 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

I met with Sam recently after working for half an hour or so with her group on their studio project. It was apparent in their meeting that they were feeling like they were spinning their wheels without getting traction and getting anxious about the amount of time they had left in the semester to get through their process. I attempted to help them move forward and make them feel better about the amount of work they could do in the remaining time.

After sitting in with them Sam and I broke off and had our 1-on-1 meeting. It was apparent that she wanted to continue the group conversation in our discussion with the remaining time for the project being her main concern. After trying to boost her confidence by talking about the anxiety that all or most people and teams feel as large projects come to conclusion and explaining that the project is (shhhh…) more about the experience and journey than producing a groundbreaking solution to the challenge. Finally, I gave some advice, all based on the same concept: SCALE.

First, you have to scale the process to your time frame; it would be nice to spend weeks and weeks in each step, ensuring that due diligence was performed. On some projects you do not have that luxury though and you must move forward with imperfect information and/or intuitive decisions.

Next, scale your challenge to fit the available time. If you were given three weeks to address a problem involving pollution it would be unrealistic to start at the global, national, state or even city level. The neighborhood or a workplace could be a better fit. Similarly, tackling industrial pollution in a few weeks would be nearly impossible but addressing littering amongst a group of people feels much more possible. Choosing an appropriate scale for your problem can ensure that you can move through the process as required.

Lastly, we should scale the solution to fit the remaining time. If you have to choose a solution and have two weeks to attempt implementation, you should use time as a criteria when making your decision. With two weeks left it would be more reasonable to choose the strategy involving a small group rather than one involving many players or one requiring six steps as opposed to 66 steps.

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