Mission Management

This is a procedure each mission leader should follow to establish and operate their mission from start to finish. It describes three aspects of project management that must be in constant focus, and some of the key tools that OpenAir advocates.

Project managers of all stripes juggle three priorities: scope, schedule and effort (budget).

Scope - every project, to be successful, must have a clear description of what is to be achieved. There may be many sub-tasks and dependencies, but there has to be an ultimate objective that can be proclaimed in a paragraph.

Schedule - there may be a final deadline, and some intermediate goals with their own schedules. Even if the end is nowhere in sight, there must be periodic assessments and reports of progress.

Effort - how many people spending how many hours will the mission consume? This will often be the most difficult aspect of a mission to estimate, because volunteer productivity is both difficult to predict and to measure. But if a mission is going to compete with others for the limited stock of human capital - we all need to see that each mission leader has thought through their mission’s needs and can explain how the limited resources are being put to best use. Another aspect of effort in this volunteer organization is that expended effort by individuals is not directly what leads to mission progress. Instead it is only captured effort that counts: captured effort is work toward a mission that produces some trace which is known to the collective: which other volunteers can view, read or otherwise know. It is the mission leaders’ duty to see that the efforts expended on their mission is captured for the collective. Among the ways a mission leader might choose to improve capture of effort is to not think of the mission-budgeted work-hours as being done by individuals. Because volunteers come and go, it is often useful to put volunteers together into circles, so more than one volunteer knows the circle’s progress. Another way to capture effort is to use online tools that are accessible to the collective - and by accessible we mean not only available, but also visible: if a mission does all their development in a private chat, it is not accessible to other members of the collective (and if the private chat participants never make the discussions accessible, the effort is lost to the collective).

Descriptions of Scope, Schedule and Effort should be kept up-to-date in the highest level overview of each mission subcategory on this site.

The progress of work can be divided into two types: the sometimes chaotic creative efforts, and the deliverable documents.

We engage in the creative effort in solitary work, online video discussions - often in Zoom but sometimes also in Google Chat, online information exchange in Discord text chat, and online collaboration in shared documents of Google Docs, Trello, Github, and others.
Ultimately, the creative effort leads to a product that responds to the mission goals. Something we want to keep and share. It might be a report, a video, a document, or a plan. It might only be a statement by the mission leader that some external goal has been achieved (the legislation passed, the business incorporated).

(how and when to purge work-in-progress ‘debris’, how to record deliverables)

(how to incorporate past work, how to assure quality)