XI. The Roles and Goals Triangle

Fortune favors the bold, united, and concord.
Dr. Albert Künstler

asy to proclaim but hard to achieve. Clarity and consistency of goals is usually obtained with great difficulty.

There are good reasons that impede the smooth commencement of a quest and that the heroes should take into account.

Firstly, the quest did not emerge from a good life. Our gracious lords assign you to this quest not because of their exorbitant liberality or revered patronage of the sciences, but because they have a nasty business problem. The quest giver is not at all pleased to spend resources and of course would appreciate the problem to be solved by your crew “yesterday” and at zero expense. Therefore, difficult negotiations are ahead, with the demands to fit into the modest budgets, but promise mostest results.

Secondly, there is a contradiction in the goals themselves. Which is familiar to many of you, skilled adventurers, as the project management Time-Quality-Budget triangle. In the Research QUEST universe you will find a very similar triangle.

The sponsor’s greatest concern is the solution to the business problem and the ROI of that solution.

Researchers will engage in exploration and data analysis, and will strive to build an accurate algorithm which usually requires an unpredictable number of iterations.

Your job as captain is to mediate the conversation and get the job done on time.

Finally, be prepared for any language difficulties that can cause many inconveniences. Sponsors think and communicate in terms of business — processes, chains, procedures, customers, risks, and costs. Whereas researchers are trained in a different language — datasets, hypotheses, regressions, statistical significance, and heuristics. Too much peril to be lost in translation.

Even worse, most eggheads disdain money and experience natural difficulties in empathizing with business problems.

True scientists are hungry for recognition and curiosity, not gold.

How to not get into trouble here?

If, peradventure, in the next several hours you have an appointment with the quest giver, what will your course of action be? During this brief but important conversation, you need to absorb the essence of the business problem. One step further, you will sort this invaluable knowledge out, interpret, and be ready to put it into the minds of researchers.

Together you will need to transform it into the relevant research problem so the explorers can further iterate over it and advance as good and fast as they can. Subsequently, they will discover and collect findings which then will require your synthesis skills to turn them into valuable grain for business. And finally, you must prepare to demonstrate the miraculous return on investment to the quest giver… But well, these moments are yet too far from now.

Let’s focus on today’s situation and the mystery of business understanding. The task is not easy, but there is a proven remedy, a Decision-to-be-Made tool, which we will talk about next.