XVII. Questions answered and unanswered

[Q]uest best practices in a nutshell
Dr. Albert Künstler

aving learned about the power of the business-understanding tools discussed in previous chapters, let us accompany our heroes, observe what has happened to them in the palace of the high lord, and witness how in just 5 days of their masterful and diligent diplomacy they have been honorably assigned a quest.

On Monday morning, the captain was delivered a message that the supreme lord of the surrounding realms declared a new quest and was looking for capable and noble heroes (like yourself) who are ready to set sail to a distant mysterious island. There, they will seek the legendary treasure of an old castle that had been allegedly raised in those storied lands.

The captain answered the call and was invited to the palace for a meeting with the first minister the next morning. He did some prep and identified 3 questions that needed to be answered before accepting the quest: What exactly do we need to solve? How do we know that our solution is good? How much will the solution cost?

On Tuesday, the captain was received by the first minister. They spent 2 hours on a very productive discussion, during which the captain learned the key details of the quest and laid them down on the MISSION canvas. The future endeavor began to take shape since they discussed the underlying Motivation, the Money involved, expected Ideas, and the Strategy and Stakeholders, as well as identified the Skills of the Squad, the Inputs, Outputs and Outcomes, and even particularities and Nuances of the quest. The first minister was quite impressed with the diligence and knowledge of our captain, so he promised to arrange a meeting with the high lord himself.

The captain now had a broad understanding of the forthcoming endeavor and spent the rest of the day thinking about the possible ideas that can help to attain the trust of the high lord.

On Wednesday at 10:00 in the morning, the doors of the palace were opened again to the captain, and the supreme lord of the surrounding realms showed his grace upon the adventurers. It was a tightly scheduled meeting, but the captain was well-prepared. In a courteous and practical manner, the captain employed the Decision-to-be-Made technique, and acquired the most important knowledge from the high lord about the Question that gave rise to the Quest and Decision that will be made on the ground of the awaited treasures. The lord explained the Time constraints and urgency of the decision, as well as the Barriers that should be dealt with. Unfortunately, the lord was not able to specify clear Metrics for the success criteria, but our captain did not miss the opportunity to make his move with The-Good-The Bad-and-The Unspoken, and wrote down 7 of the most important requisites that the lord felt most desirable to obtain. The conversation was short but very practical, and the captain was even lucky enough to briefly discuss the Decision Logic by distinguishing four main steps of the decision and getting a better understanding of the most important factors that determine the logic of these steps.

The meeting ended in a positive mood and the high lord seemed pretty surprised with the captain’s virtues — the first minister was also proud of himself. The captain requested a day for internal thinking and promised to circle back to the first minister as soon as they had a plan.

After the meeting at the palace, the captain decided to visit a wise old man whom everyone in the capital city knew as the Architect. They had a profound discussion and the Architect shared his wisdom and guided the captain about the mysteries that awaited the crew on the distant island.

On Tuesday, all crew members gathered together to review the collected information and strategize. According to the quest giver’s priorities they defined the Castle in the Clouds that would be the main objective of their journey. Adventurers also identified the unanswered questions — missing and uncertain areas that would become targets of their future research. For those parts they’ve planned exploratory efforts and Quick & Dirtyprototyping. Based on the available and answered questions, they selected four major areas where a Good Enough solution can be developed in order to get closer to the goal. The quantitative success criteria stay unclear yet, but they decided to develop a set of metrics later as soon as they develop a Good Enough solution.

On Friday, the captain returned back to the palace and offered his loyalty and his crew to the high lord. They discussed the plan and the leveling tactics, and the captain requested four barrels of gold in order to develop a solution containing four Good Enough building blocks. The high lord and the first minister liked the plan in general, but they were somewhat uncomfortable with the cost and the absence of a hard commitment. They wanted a promise that the Cloud Castle would be marched upon and captured, and the treasures delivered back to the capital. The captain, however, stood by the plan, arguing that the island is an unknown land and nobody knows what perils reside there. Eventually, the quest giver approved the plan, but with the condition that the cost would be reduced down to three barrels of gold.

On this they shook hands and the quest was officially accepted.

Was it a good deal? How could the heroes accurately estimate the cost when there was still so much unknown? What should they do with uncertainties and the unanswered questions? We will see it in the next part, which is entirely dedicated to structuring the uncertain and charting the unknown, and we will learn how the journey map is made.