The QPRI framework was designed by Kat Brookshier and Dante Santos in the spring of 2014 to inspire short, productive periods of work that can be documented and reflected upon. The intent of this framework is to provide guidance in the same way as the scientific method or Agile Scrum, but with a loose structure meant for design.
In this framework, an individual or group analyzes the state of their project or venture, determines questions that need to be answered to help refine the state of their venture, answers them, and then reflects upon the answers and incorporates insights gleaned into their venture.
In one sentence, state the question you intend to answer.
Developing Your Question
Framing the work you need to do, or the improvements that need to be made to your project or venture as a question to answer enables you to bite off a chunk that is neither too big or too small to be completed in a reasonable timeframe. It also helps to keep you on track instead of being pulled away by the countless tangential improvements that can be made.
Try phrasing the area of improvement as five different distinct questions. Compare them and use your insights as to why some are better than others to hone the resulting improved question. Repeat until you have a question that you understand, that conveys any important subtext or context associated with the question, and isn’t wordy. If the questions can be answered by anyone on the team or stakeholder off the top of their heads (showing that knowledge is not being shared, not that it is unknown) incorporate that knowledge, and refine your question further.
Area of improvement: rickshaw drivers are complaining that the new rickshaws break when driven over bumpy ground.
What part of the rickshaw fails?
Does it fail from sustained force or impulse?
What force/impulse makes it fail?
Does it bend/break/shear/deform?
Is the failure due to manufacturing or assembly problems?
It seems here that some of these questions say that the area of improvement needs to be more clearly defined, and some of them are valuable unanswered questions.
The team contacts the rickshaw pullers and determines that a small bracing piece of metal tube on the rear wheel axle mount is what breaks, and that it happens all at once, with a single jarring force.
With this new information, they can formulate the following question:
“What instantaneous force causes the axle mounting bracket to fail catastrophically?”
This question makes sense to everyone on the team, and can be answered in less than a week by one person using Finite Element Analysis or by testing an equivalent part to failure.
This process of question development works for less cut-and-dry mechanical-engineering-based areas of improvement. The AOI, questions, refinement, final question method can be used for almost every design improvement.
Frameworks, tests, design practices, methods - the structured units of work that will help you answer your question.
This is by far the most varied and time-consuming part of the QPRI process. You and your team know better than anyone what needs to happen to answer your question, and whether or not your team has the skills and resources to actually do so.
The most important things to remember for this portion of the framework are:
Take lots of pictures
Document your work, at the highest quality that doesn’t interrupt your workflow. The more you do now of this, the less you’ll be cursing yourself when you want to write it up.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew
If answering this question is taking more than 4 different frameworks/tests/methods, you need to think about revising the question by breaking it into multiple smaller parts. If your questions are too large it puts stress on the people trying to answer them, and reduces the likelihood that you should be confident in the answers you get. If the question is broad, it’s impossible to pay attention to detail and do a thorough job of answering it. It’s better to complete more smaller QPRIs than one larger one.
Conveying the outcomes of your work to stakeholders.
Reporting Your Results
Your work counts for nothing unless you can convey to others its outcomes. Use diagrams, graphs, renders, and well made tables wherever you can to replace blocks of text or useless .csv files. If you fill an excel spreadsheet with data and attach it to your report and call it reporting results you are doing yourself a disservice by making sure nobody ever learns about your work. Making your results presentable and easy to draw conclusions from is part of your job.
The most common mistake in reporting is having unreadable tables. Here’s a quick guide on how to display information more clearly: Making tables not awful
Reflecting on your work to improve your project or venture.
Reflection, Implication, Incorporation
You don’t do anybody any good if you work on some aspect of your project or venture for days/weeks/months, wrap it up, tie it in a bow, and then leave it in the back of some closet somewhere. Part of the creation of a QPRI is its incorporation into the venture as a whole. This is very different for each QPRI, venture, and area of improvement, but there are three main steps that every QPRI must undergo in this final of the four stages.
Put aside to use your favorite form of structured reflection. There are lots of methodologies from reviewing burndown charts to drinking games to journaling and everything in between. What matters is that reflect on what was good, bad, and ways that you/your team should change your practices in the future to improve yourselves, your team, your venture, and your product. Finally, you need to commit to actually making those changes. Implement what you can to make sure these changes are used in the future.
The changes made to the portion of the venture covered by the QPRI will have rippling effects throughout your entire system. Make sure you know how making your proposed changes will affect your stakeholders, customers, fellow team members, sources of funding, etc. You should also confirm that the changes you make will not conflict with any changes that are being made by the team simultaneously elsewhere in the venture.
The final step in your QPRI (before writing it up, of course) is to incorporate your changes into the system. This is different for every QPRI, but it’s always good to document the system before and after your changes to prove and document the impact and value of your work.
Passing it on to the next generation.
The final step in a successful QPRI is writing a great report. It should be short, direct, and information-dense while still being easy to read. We’ve prepared a set of resources to assist in writing a great report. If you have any questions or comments about them, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
A consolidated report form to improve communication and productivity
A b+ worthy report using the QPRI format for branding of a startup
A framework for intuitively communicating the status of work