George H Heilmeier was a DARPA director and developed 9 questions to help the agency determine the worthiness of project being submitted to it for funding. These 9 powerful questions as referred to as the "Heilmeier Catechism" and have become a core operating paradigm for DARPA [Defense Advance Research Projects Activity] And IARPA [Intelligence Advance Research Project Activity].
These questions are so powerful, they are used in the business world day in and day out. I first learned about these questions while having lunch with a VC in San Francisco. He explained that many of his peers also use these questions when determining the funding worthiness of a proposal.
There have been variations to the questions but I recommended sticking with the original 9:
- What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon. What is the problem? Why is it hard?
- How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?
- What's new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful?
- Who cares?
- If you're successful, what difference will it make? What impact will success have? How will it be measured?
- What are the risks and the payoffs?
- How much will it cost?
- How long will it take?
- What are the midterm and final "exams" to check for success? How will progress be measured?
This is a variation on the journalists who, what, where, when, why and how strategy. Obviously answering these questions will not change the world or guarantee the success of a project. They will greatly reduce the risks you take by ensuring the key concepts are thought off and understood