It’s logical enough to start at the beginning. After all, it’s been drummed into us since we were kids. Even the children’s classic Do Re Mi starts with that admonition (http://youtu.be/1RW3nDRmu6k).
And while we would be the last people to take a stance against sufficient preparation and proper aiming, we would argue that starting at the beginning gets it all backwards.
To be fair, we’ve not seen any RFPs or proposals in the last 25+ years that don’t include at least some objectives. But, how often are those “objectives” really just a bullet-pointed list of what the client (or researcher) feels should be covered in the research?
Defining objectives can’t be done well, or indeed at all, until it’s clear what is going to be done when the research is complete.
Agile Research insists that you work your way through a project to a solution. Towards something you can act on, implement, design or change. To do that, you have to know what you are intending to do at the end. We refer to it as “Starting at the end.”
That doesn’t mean you should slavishly adhere to a proscribed approach or methodology simply to ensure you end up in a certain place. In fact, we frequently admonish our clients to be open to shifts in direction. Sometimes, we even deliberately advise them to build shifts in direction into the process.
A recipe for chaos? Not if you are clear on the intended use for what you will learn. When you are clear what you are trying to solve for, or what you are trying to develop, the detours and switchbacks in the road are no longer something to be feared. As often as not, therein lie the insights we are looking for.
So, next time you are initiating a research project. Ask yourself, where do we want to end up?
Because deciding before you start where you want to be at the end, makes getting there a lot easier.