GOTChA Chart

People use reminders, notes, calendar items and other tools to organize themselves.

When I spent some university research time in California, I got used to organising myself using a GOTChA chart. This was proposed by my supervisor and amazing professor Richard Murray [1], from the Control and Dynamic Systems department at Caltech. Its main use is to track projects, though I propose you use it to keep track of your general responsibilities, in tasks big or small.

A GOTChA chart has four main elements, as presented by Richard himself (slightly modified) [2]:

  • 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 a project. A sample goal is “Increase sales and profitability of the company in the current year”.
  • Objectives. A concrete specification of what you want to accomplish, with numbers and dates. It must be simple to assess whether or not each objective has been completed. They should support the overall goals, but should be much more specific and concrete. A sample objective is “Reach an average rate of 50 new customers per day by the end of December, and for the whole of the month.”.
  • Technical Challenges. This is a list of the hard things of accomplishing your goals and objectives. The list should fairly short (~5) items and focus on those parts of the problem that are the true showstoppers. A sample technical challenge is “Currently, customers acquired through offline channels (eg. Flyers) don’t come back often enough, making each customer acquired a pain on profitability”.
  • 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. An example would be “Do offline campaigns only at locations where we are fairly certain that our target customer is willing to interact with us”.

I typically read (and present) my gotcha chart in two ways:

  1. as a 2x2 table, which segments items per category. This is great to do a progress review or to present a project as a whole to a new team member.
  2. as a tree, which groups items by their links to others. This is better to dive in in an analysis and to actually solve objectives one by one.

A table would look like this:

Goals
  • Goal 1
  • Goal 2
Technical Challenges
  • TC 1
  • TC 2
Objectives
  • Objective 1
  • Objective 2
Approach
  • Approach 1
  • Approach 2

A tree would look like this:

  • Goal 1
    • Objective 1
      • Technical Challenge 1
        • Approach 1
      • Technical Challenge 2
        • Approach 1
        • Approach 2
    • Objective 2
      • Technical Challenge 1
        • Approach 1
  • Goal 2
    • Objective 1
      • Technical Challenge 1
        • Approach 1
        • Approach 1

-

[1]. http://www.cds.caltech.edu/~murray/wiki/
[2]. http://www.cds.caltech.edu/~murray/wiki/index.php/GOTChA_Chart