· Chapter 9: The chapter starts with an example of stuffing envelopes in large vs. small batches. For what reasons does Ries say the small batches are more efficient?
- Problems with the entire process are discovered and corrected early (mis-fit envelopes, sealing problems.) There is less overhead by avoiding the need to manage large piles of in-process inventory.
· Chapter 10: Shift your focus from building robots to growing our team of students, mentors, parents, and sponsors. What is our team's engine of growth?
- I would say we have a combination of sticky and viral growth. Most students ‘stick’ at least until graduation, but we’ve also seen some that stick beyond that as they stay involved in FIRST and come back to mentor. We also have some viral growth, (but probably not > 1.0) whereby as we have more and more students involved, they help recruit other students
- In regard to sponsors, it is critical that we have ‘sticky’ growth there, and retain sponsors from year to year without losing them.
· Chapter 10: We also lose people (students, mentors, parents, and sponsors). What things cause this to happen? Which of these can we control?
- As mentioned in the previous answer, we lose students through graduation. We lose mentors in some cases for similar reasons, if their commitment is primarily based upon helping out where their kids are invested, rather than being fully invested ‘on their own.’ Some mentors start out because their kid is in the program but then stay with the program even after the kid(s) are no longer participating (usually due to graduation.)
· Chapter 11: Explain the purpose of the "Five Whys" technique for root cause analysis.
- The goal is to get to root cause of why something undesirable happened, and to avoid just ‘patching’ the system. A pre-match and post-match checklist is often a great way that problems once encountered are avoided in the future—by enhancing the ‘process’ of competing, we avoid the same mistakes, whether they be as simple as assuring a fresh battery is in the bot or something more complex, like making sure the lifter is at the correct starting position and that code is deployed and operational.
· Overall: Let's say our build team's customer is the drive team. Our design process usually involves creating and perfecting the robot as much as possible before giving the customer a couple days to use our product (and virtually no time to suggest changes after use). What could we do to get our customer some kind of product sooner? How could we learn from our customer and use their feedback in the design?
- Here’s a wild idea—sort of longer term—drivers get very little experience with our own robot(s) due to the constraints of our limited build time. What if we sought out, during off season events or even a special purpose ‘meetup’ where we brought together multiple teams with their robots and had teams swap bots and drivers (with some how-to driver training) so that our team was exposed to a much larger set of drive experience possibilities. We might hear things like “Team 1234’s bot was so easy to drive compared to ours, we need to understand how to program our drive system in a similar way as they do. Or we may here things like— “4859’s bot is so simple to operate, instead of having all sorts of manipulator controls, they just have up and down – and it does everything.”
- A key take-away for our team that I learned is that we have lots of opportunity to enhance our relationship with our sponsors and get even more value from them. For example, we could build a small survey asking our sponsors what motivated them to contribute to our team vs. sending their donations elsewhere vs. not donating at all. Was it because we build cool robots and they are intrigued, because we had students presenting and soliciting? Was it the goals of the program? Was it so that their name would ‘get out there’ by being on the bot/t-shirt/web-site?
- I’ve also considered pitching to sponsors that they can help out via 1) Money, 2) Materials, 3) Services, 4) Providing mentors/advice. I now realize that they can also provide another very important service– they can help recruit other organization as mentors, if we provide the tools for them. It was clear at McNeilus that they were setup to give tours to customers and prospective customers. While many of these customers are likely distant geographically from Byron, providing McNeilus with a low effort way to tell them about their involvement in FIRST and a direct way for those customers to find teams local to their locations would be a great way to expand FIRST to other sponsors. If McNeilus could tell us “Company XYX from Topeka saw the picture of your team and robot and seemed pretty interested” we could contact the FRC teams in Topeka and tell them they might want to ‘strike’ while the iron is hot and try to sign up a new sponsor. If we were to devise a world wide mechanism and game plan to get a large number of FRC teams to do this with their primary sponsors, then there would be a viral effect that any person/company visiting a strong FRC Team sponsor would turn into a ‘sales lead’ for that or another team.