Oh hey – you’re back! Welcome to this session of the “How to Make Guides” project where I am making an instruction manual users can follow in order to make guides of their own. In the previous session I spent some time revisiting milestones and planned how they should be used. In this session I will incorporate milestones into the guide and into the task list.
How will this happen? I’ve deduced that milestones serve two different purposes but should sync up. For instance, in the guide (which is a rigid set of suggested tasks) the milestones are objectives that define what a phase will do where as in the task list (which is a flexible set of manually built tasks) the milestones are objectives that give users goals to work toward.
In this session, my goal is to ensure the task list has explicit milestones that match the implied milestones written in the phase overviews of the guide. Does that make sense to you? Never mind, it kind of only matters that it makes sense to me right now so I’ll move on. 😉
If I Could Walk 500 Milestones
I guess the first step is to look at what I already have written down for these two documents (the guide and the task list). Here they are in table format:
|1. Exploring Your Vision
|By the end of this phase, you will have a better understanding of what you are creating, why you are creating it, and the scope of what you are creating.
|1. Project Needs Identified
2. Ideal Solution Fabricated
3. Target Audience Identified
4. Scope for Project and Product Defined
|2. Planning Your Project
|By the end of this phase, you will have a better understanding of what criteria matters for the project and what steps are needed to launch a successful product.
|1. Project Goal Defined
2. Objectives Defined
3. Task List Established
3. Project Document Created
|3. Planning Your Product
|By the end of this phase, you will have a better understanding of the content of your guide, how that content will be organized, and how that content will be presented.
|1. Research Conducted
2. Outline Drafted
3. Presentation Format Determined
|4. Producing Your Product
|With an outline in hand, it’s time to draft your guide. By the end of this phase, you will have a complete first draft of your guide and have internally reviewed it.
|1. First Draft Created
2. First Draft Reviewed Internally
3. Self-test conducted
|5. Reviewing Your Product Content
|By the end of this phase, you will have gathered feedback from various sources to refine your work into a semi-final draft.
|1. Second Draft Created
2. Second Draft Peer-Reviewed
|6. Testing Your Product
|By the end of this phase you will have generated at least one prototype of your guide and performed at least three different tests.
|1. Prototype Created
2. Prototype Tested
|7. Launching Your Product
|Placeholder: By the end of this phase, the final product will have been announced to the target audience.
|1. Final Draft Created
2. Communications Planned
3. Communications Prepared
4. Final Product Launched
|8. Closing Your Project
|Placeholder: By the end of this phase, the project’s life cycle will have been analyzed with a focus on process improvement and action items for implementing those improvements; and, you will have tied up loose ends including decommissioning any drafts and cleaning up file structures.
|1. Retrospective Created
2. Loose Ends Tied Up
Okay, so to explain some things. Some of the task list items needed to be invented. The final two overview passages were taken from the PM Guidelines document I created before this project (hence the word placeholder). That final overview passage is especially long because Retrospective and Close are two different phases in that document and I combined them here.
Phase 1: Exploring Your Vision
I like how the passage tells you what to expect without using the literal words of the milestone. This is what I intended by saying “incorporate milestones into the overview”. They are there but in a digestible way. I just have to ensure that there is a like-for-like match of each milestone in both places.
Perhaps a way to approach this is to write an abstracted overview for each task list milestone. These then could potentially be used as-is for the guide overviews. I think. Let’s try that.
1. Project Needs Identified – why you are creating the product (why)
2. Ideal Solution Fabricated – what the perfect solution could look like (what)
3. Target Audience Identified – who the product serves (who)
4. Scope for Project and Product Defined – the boundaries of project and product (what)
That fourth one is going to be C L U N K Y as long as I combine both scopes but at the same time both need to be combined due to the way our brains function. Not only can you control which specific limitations you think of, it’s imperative to have a space for placing the “other” limitations that you accidentally think of even if you could only focus on one at a time.
Perhaps it comes down to word choice: It’s the scope, not the scope of the project and product.
4. Scope Defined – the boundaries and limitations of the solution
I think that works.
Okay, so with this, what does the overview passage look like?
By the end of this phase you will better understand why you are creating this product, what the perfect solution looks like, who the product serves, and the boundaries and limitations of the solution.
That’s rough. Is sequence important for an overview? Like do the milestones have to appear in order within the passage? If so, common sequence for the nouns of each phrase follows a “who, what, where, why, how” pattern. Something like:
By the end of this phase you will better understand who your product serves; what form the product should (and shouldn’t) take; and, why the product is being created.
It really feels like that why should come first. Maybe order does matter? If that’s the case, the words need some massaging. Here’s another go.
By the end of this phase you will better understand why you are creating this product, who benefits from the product, and what form the product should (and should not) take.
I think that’s good. The milestones are out of sequence and I’ve combined two of them so all bets are off regarding a like-for-like match I guess. Ha.
Phase 2: Planning Your Project
I’ll try the same approach as before – abstract the task list milestones then combine those phrases into one passage.
- Project Goal Defined – the goal to achieve (what)
- Objectives Defined – the metrics for the goal’s success (how – post)
- Task List Established – the pathway toward achieving the goal (how – pre)
- Project Document Created – the log used to plan and track progress toward the goal (how – present)
Those are clunky but they are all written in reference to the goal so maybe there are ways to consolidate. Interestingly enough, some of these are similar in the type of attribute they provide regarding the goal but their relationship differs by time (past, future, constant). Perhaps this can help plot out the passage.
By the end of this phase you will have defined the goal; the pathway for achieving that goal; the means to plan and track progress towards that goal; and metrics for evaluating the success of that goal.
Clunky, clunky, clunky. I’ll try consolidating those three “hows”.
By the end of this phase you will have defined the goal and the metrics, pathway, and means to track the progress needed to ensure you successfully meet that goal.
Hey, that works. Moving on.
Phase 3: Planning Your Project
Abstracting the task list milestones:
- Research – authoritative information required to draft the product content (what)
- Outline – a system for organizing the product content (how)
- Presentation Format – the way the product content will be displayed (how)
Like in the previous phase we have a common denominator here – product content and based on how things have been condensed in the previous phases I think I have an idea for how the passage should be constructed:
By the end of this phase you will have identified the content for the product and the systems for organizing and displaying the content.
Eh…? I don’t like using the word “systems” to define how the content will be organized and displayed. Maybe it’s too difficult to combine these two ideas. In the abstraction, I labeled one as a “system” and the other as a “way”. Those are of the same family for instructing, perhaps there is a parent word that they both fall under? A “system” is infrastructure while “way” is a process. Maybe I’m trying to combine the wrong things.
Let me try this from a different approach:=
By the end of this phase you will have researched and organized the product content and determined a format for its display.
There. I think that’s perfect. Moving on…
Phase 4: Producing Your Product
Not sure if this needs to be abstracted out. You are creating a first draft of your product, reviewing it and conducting a test. Okay maybe I should at least explore abstraction since that sounds so clunky.
- First Draft – a rough version of the product content
- Internal Review – creator’s assessment of the rough version as a reader
- Self-test – creator’s assessment of the rough version as a user
Okay. This is still clunky but at least some obvious opportunities for consolidation have been revealed. Here’s my “rough version” of the passage:
By the end of this phase you will have created a rough version of the content and assessed it as both a reader and a user.
Well… I’m not convinced it’s the best but it’s good enough for now.
Phase 5: Reviewing Your Product Content
I keep trying to differentiate between product and product content but maybe I should remove content, assuming its part of the product? The goal of this was to ensure this step was about editing the written copy, not layout, imagery or any other visual elements. In the very least maybe this should say “copy” instead of “content”?
Maybe something like: “Phase 5: Reviewing Your Product (Copy)“
Eh… I think I’ll just keep it the way it is for now. Anyway, here’s the abstraction:
- Second Draft Created – a refined version of the product content (what)
- Second Draft Peer-Reviewed – third-party feedback about the refined version of the product content (what)
Ugh. I hate it. Maybe it will sound better in passage form?
By the end of this phase you will have created a refined version of the content and had it reviewed by confidants.
I think that’s good enough for a first draft.
Phase 6: Testing Your Product
Maybe I should change Phase 4 and 5 to discuss “Content” instead of “Product Content”? I’m overthinking it. The word “product” is a stand-in for the product type anyway (e.g. Reviewing Your Game Content, Reviewing Your Guide Content, Reviewing Your Podcast Content, etc.).
- Prototype Created – rough version of the product (what)
- Prototype Tested – third-party feedback about the refined version of the product (what)
Okay, is this where layout and design work comes into play? No. According to the steps within the guide, this is an iterative process designed to test the product before any illustrations or other non-essential elements are commissioned / crafted (since they may very well change with testing).
Maybe, instead of “rough version of the product” this should be relabeled as “simplest version of the product that can be tested”? I like that despite its clunkiness.
By the end of this phase you will have created a test version of the product and had it tested by at least one other user.
I think that works.
Phase 7: Launching Your Product
I have a feeling this will eventually turn into two phases – one for creating the final product and one for launching it but for now I’ll keep it as is.
Here’s the abstraction:
- Final Draft Created – release version of the product (what)
- Communications Planned – plan of the marketing materials to make, whom to send them to, and when (what)
- Communications Prepared – marketing materials and content (what)
- Final Product Launched – final version released and marketing materials administered (what)
That’s messy but here’s a go at the passage:
By the end of this phase you will have created the release version of the product; planned and created marketing materials; and, released the product and materials.
Eeh… maybe this will be better defined once I actually make this section of the guide? I’ll leave it as is for now.
Phase 8: Closing Your Project
I think this is pretty straightforward:
By the end of this phase you will have created a retrospective and tied up any remaining loose ends.
I think the word “retrospective” should be abstracted but it wraps up all what it does so nice and succinctly. I’m going to leave it for now.
Okay. The next step will be to make all these changes to the task list and the draft guide. I’ll do that now… and that’s done.
That wraps up this session. In the next session, I’ll copy the steps from the guide thus far and place them within the task list. Should be pretty straightforward. We’ll see. It won’t be long now before I’m back to creating new sections rather than refining the document. Ha.
See you in the next session.