Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A General Learning of the whole Cat Team

This is a much simpler lesson than the hardest lesson of the cat team. Maybe you shall find it easier to grasp too.

Before the Cats got Lean and Mean
When the Cats were going through the last phases of kittenlife and almost had grown up they began training at doing work together. In the beginning they had a hard time getting anywhere. Ofcourse such young Cats are going to need to learn a lot of things along the way towards greatness. This is one of the things they learned early.

How to keep Cats busy with doing work
The cats sat down in a room together, looked at each other and talked for a while about what they are really good at. You probably already read the post about the team and know what their skills are. They got a lot of skills, and they made a plan to make sure all the skills are used as much of the time as possible. Wizzard Cat makes awesome Magic, Fixer Cat fixes a lot of things which appear to need fixing, Artist Cat makes much of the emotional Art and Expert Cat makes many great plans.
Working with this plan the whole Cat team made themselves very busy. They worked late nights, they made marvellous things and they had a lot of fun. They kept up this production for a long time since they knew it takes a long time to get any good result so they produced a lot of things.
After a few years the Cat team looked up and realized all the work they had done had resulted in nothing more useful than good times, practice and things. This is not a very useful result, what were the cats doing wrong?

Doing things rather than achieving goals
The Cat team had optimized the work effort for local optima. Keeping the team busy with doing what each Cat is really great at had caused them to fail at reaching the results with only can be met by Cats who help each other meet common objectives. This is an insidious trap which will catch unwary Cats who fail to maintain the discipline needed to keep the whole team focused on the most important objective, which for Lean and Mean Cat Teams is profitability.
By making sure all the cats are busy doing the things they are really good at doing they don't have time to learn about the things at which they suck. In this case they were sucking at setting priorities for the team and they failed to realize that what they were doing instead was waste.

The one trick which turned the Cats around
After realizing that the first few years of optimizing the work to do the wrong thing they turned the whole problem upside down. Instead of even worrying about what they are the best at they began figuring out what their product really needs right now, thereafter do that work together. They began testing their product against the userCats they were building it for and started to see that some things were decent, but most things were quite bad compared to what the Cats had though before they tested.
Now they were on to something. But there were some problems. Often they found that the product was full of bad magic which broke when the userCats tested it. Since Magic is what Wizard Cat does this made the other Cats scared that they would be unable to help Wizard Cat with fixing the broken Magic.

How the other Cats become assistant Wizards
The Cat Team of four cats, with only one Wizard Cat who needs to repair the broken Magic figured out what to do with the problem. The first bit is simple, the other Cats can make sure Wizard Cat is well informed about the symptoms of the broken Magic. The other cats in the team make sure there are userCats ready and waiting to test the new and improved Magic every time Wizard Cat finishes another spell. The other cats in the team can also help Wizard Cat with doing continuous exploratory testing and workshops to keep Wizard Cat really well informed about the value of the improved Magic.
When the problematic Magic is really badly broken the other Cats start talking to their friends to hear if any other Wizard Cats might have cast this spell successfully in the past. They dig up information and possibly seek out Greater Wizards who can help get the Magic in place. Since the other Cats sometimes can't do anything to be very helpful to Wizard Cat they begin spending more time together with Wizard Cat to learn how these Magic spells are cast. This makes the other Cats become low level Wizard Apprentices who will be better at gathering reagents which are more useful to Wizard Cat than what they otherwise usually produce.

Wizard Cat can not always be supported by the other Cats
Sometimes Wizard Cat also needs to be alone with his Spellcasting. At these times when the other Cats are unable to do anything else which helps Wizard Cat they have a few options. They can do some work on customer research and get better at understanding what type of product the market wants. They can do various planning experiments and test if they can come up with some neat solutions to the other problems the userCats have encountered while testing. They can even start sketching on something which is less important than the thing which Wizard Cat is working on. They can practice their skills at making tests or teaching each other about the deeper understandings of their methods.
They can even spend some time with the tools they use and build various little prototype things which in almost all cases are waste. But the practice is not waste so it has some kind of value. They can also do random things such as visiting their grandparents, have some coffee and get a bit of a tan. Someday in the future there will be room for Wizard Cat to enjoy these kinds of breaks when maybe Artist Cat gets stuck with needing to fix broken emotions in the product.
On a general level the cats found that even in these cases where one of the Cat Team Members gets really stuck with the most important piece of work it is better to avoid trying to produce other work with the rest of the team while the big hurdle is overcome. The really scary part is when the stuck cat is totally unable to know if the problem even can be solved. If such an unpredictable situation happens the Cats might have to back off and change their idea about the product. But first after trying to solve the problem.
Maybe next learning is how the Cats figured out to avoid Broken Magic...?

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