Week 10: An Eye on the Process, An Eye on the Project.

This week we begin the push toward the graduate exhibition – a great opportunity to present your emerging practice as it stands and to celebrate 3+ years of work.

We will spend sometime talking about project management because – while we are most concerned about establishing an ongoing practice – we also have to present that project to the public.  We will then continue with our process of testing and feedback.

There are obvious benefits to having this looming deadline; We have to produce things, there can be no more procrastination, anxieties will be confronted/denied, and we will be forced to compromise our more grandiose visions for achievable goals.

There are strategies for making this task easier.  As we go through them all note that they all have one thing in common – the aim should be to chip away iteratively at an idea or ideal and to build in ways of incorporating observations and feedback as quickly and as frequently as possible.

Kill Your Darlings

One that has often worked for me is to have file of ideas/chapters/cuttings an in which I put all those ideas that were great…but not quite working yet. This is a softer version of the oft given advice given to writers to ‘kill their darlings/babies’ – elements or ideas that are complicated and close to the writers heart but are often a great obstacle to finishing.

In this file a put these ideas to which I will return to later…I haven’t killed my darlings…I will return to their inestimable brilliance at a later date. For now, lets put those things to one side and finish those things that can be completed and tested.

Minimal Viable Product/Project.

Another way of moving forward is related to that …. the MVP (minimal viable product)

It is the idea stolen (back) from startup culture. Whats the Minimal Viable Project here? Its fine to have grand plans… in fact I reckon its a great motivator…but rather than be obsessed with the end and the detail – we need to work out what is the simplest possible iteration of the project with which we can test its premises and ideas? Most of us have been doing this each week and will continue to build on that start… but if you haven’t this is the day. Note that a minimal viable product/project is still a project….we treat it as a finished form – take care in its installation in order to test it rigorously and meaningfully.

Abstraction : finding the best building block for a project.

Think back to MEDA102 and your programming experience.

Often the best way to start working an idea is identifying the simplest and most fundamental abstraction that characterises the project and work with that. ‘This work is about circles’, lets start there. In part this is as much about boiling a project down to its most important elements as much as it is simplifying my beginning. Good abstractions make big projects work…starting with a good abstraction is the single most important step for good programming – and I’d argue – any project development.

Untitled Gouache on graph paper 29.8 x 50.8 cm 1970

Lets have a quick look at how some of these ideas have radically altered  management and startup culture over the last decade or so and how we might use or adapt them..

Project Management approaches.

Versions of Agile and Lean approaches to project development:

The Agile approach to software development is characterised by the maxim ‘Release Early, Release Often’ and we have really seen a big change in the way software is distributed accordingly.  Its is essentially a shift to a relatively more iterative process of product development in which ideas are built released, tested and feedback incorporated for the next release. The small the loop the less costly and more agile programmers can be in reposes to opportunities and challenges.

In a parallel development management of industrial manufacturing (amongst other areas) have increasingly adopted Lean Management Principles. Lean management is essentially about minimising wasted resources by cutting down ‘work-in-process’ time and ensuring any development adds value to the experience of the product – once again this means an incremental and iterative approach to process improvement and the facility for incorporating feedback with agility. If implemented well the Lean approach requires a very different corporate structure – responsive not only to customers but those involved at all levels of the manufacturing process.

Note that in both approaches incorporating feedback is essential and that feedback isn’t just about critique – its about the feedback provided by the materials and structures as they are deployed as well…

Effectively modern management and development paradigms have shifted to a process of what artists and makes have called material thinking and creative research for sometime.

There are increasing numbers of versions of this methodology – the software version is to deploy early and often, this development into a management paradigm that looks something like: (discover/design (what), design/deploy (how), measure/test/analyse), but really I think it is what artists/craftspeople and creative types always did: Act – Observe – Act (differently). Regardless of how you deploy it make sure that each task involves an action and returns an observation that will inform the project moving forward.


Some more concrete guidelines:

In basic terms this means that you

Goals, Milestones, Obstacles & Mitigations, Tasks.

  • A well defined goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART -urgh).
  • Milestones break down your goals according to steps with dates. We work backward from our goal to set Milestones and ensure we understand and apportion time appropriately.
  • Tasks are the direct steps needed to achieve milestones. Break you milestones sdone into small achievable task.
  • Obstacles:  reflect on your tasks (and milestones) individually – what obstacles might stop you from achieving them. Turn them into tasks in order to account for these obstacles.




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