DARPA hit my radar screen last week when I was in Monterrey, California to speak to a group of high potential commanders and captains at the Naval Postgraduate School. (Ironically enough, the topic was our Life GPS® model – that’s goals planning system, not global positioning system.) At the end of my talk, where, as usual, I tossed out a lot of open ended thought starter questions to the group, one of the participants, Captain Duane Ashton, came up to say hello and offer me his business card. Later in the day, I took a look at Capt. Ashton’s card and noticed that he’s a program manager at DARPA. I also noticed that there were some questions printed on the back. Here’s what’s printed on the back of Captain Ashton’s card:
- What are trying to do?
- How does this get done at present? Who does it?
- What are the limitations of the present approaches?
- What is new about our approach? Why do we think we can be successful at this time?
- If we succeed, what difference do we think it will make?
- How long do we think it will take? What are our mid-term and final exams?
- How much will it cost?
Over the weekend, I sent Captain Ashton an e-mail (thanks for that DARPA) to ask him if everyone in his agency has the questions on the back of their business cards or if that was something he did on his own. With his permission, here’s his reply:
I would venture to say that many of the DARPA Program Managers have the Heilmeier questions on their cards. In my case, it is a reminder to me and those who also bring their ideas or vision with me on how I must present the idea to the DARPA Director to sell a new start program while at DARPA. The questions help guide me through the landscape to present an innovative idea as a new program, as is the case for my current programs. As you can imagine, it is a lot of work but if it passes the litmus test, it is an idea worth pursuing if aligned with your passion.Great stuff. Thanks Captain Ashton. The captain’s reply leaves me with one more question for you:
Where, when and how could you apply the Heilmeier Questions in your organization? I’d love to get a discussion going among the readership on that.
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