Mindtribe’s Approach Applied to a School Robot Project

A few weeks ago, Mindtribe gave a talk to a college engineering class on our approach to project planning and execution. The high-level themes of our talk were:

  • Align on a focused product.
  • Focus the team on the most important things first.
  • Seek and incorporate new learnings frequently.
  • Build less, faster.

The class project–a robot that played a variation of hockey–was to be handed out at the end of the lecture. So, in addition to sharing Mindtribe’s planning approach, and how we applied it to develop Adobe Ink and Slide, we also gave them some concrete ideas for how to apply the principles to a project like the one they were about to receive.

After our talk, we asked if anyone had questions. The professor raised his hand and said, “That was provocative! Does it actually work?!” Turns out they had been teaching the opposite approach–a divide and conquer, integrate at the end approach. The project checkpoints were even laid out based on a divide and conquer approach: at each checkpoint teams were to demonstrate partial progress of each subsystem.

To allow students to try the Mindtribe approach instead, the professor changed the rules, giving teams the option to demonstrate a subset of fully completed features at each checkpoint, instead of incremental progress on all features. The scene was set to compare the two approaches: divide and conquer (traditional way) versus incremental integration (our way)!

So, how did it turn out? Well, after the project we sent a survey to see how teams did. And….most teams who tried the Mindtribe approach found it effective! And teams who didn’t use our approach said the teams who did performed better!!

A few of the most interesting responses are quoted below. It’s super exciting to get feedback like this. These school projects are microcosms of a full product development effort, and a great way to close the loop on our process. Going in, we felt strongly that our approach would work well if applied properly, but we weren’t sure how well we could convey the essence in an actionable way in just an hour. It seems like multiple teams were able to apply it successfully, which is fantastic.

“Yes. Minimizing integration through the serial approach and continually testing end-to-end really helped our team.”

“Yes. It helped us segregate and define the aspects of the project we needed to work on to have a minimally functionally ‘bot. Thus we started the project on the same page and with very clearly defined goals and what we needed to do to meet the goals. Having staged integrations was definitely a good idea!”

“Yes. I found it improved communication among team members significantly. In past projects, when the work is completely split, there were many miscommunications about ideas of how the overall project is supposed to be. Having a focused goal helped significantly. It became very apparent when one team member was not on the same page as others, and this was quickly remedied. The Mindtribe approach additionally has made it so that the robot can be run/changed/worked on completely by any two members on the team. Because we are all involved in each part of the robot, any team member can miss a meeting without hindering the work on the robot.”

“Yes. Whenever there was a problem there were always people around to provide a fresh pair of eyes, and things that could have taken a long time individually seemed to go much faster (ie CAD) when we did it all together.”