Bottom-Up and Top-Down Projects

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Bottom-up analysis collects together recorded issues to solve together in a project as a group. Top-down analysis breaks a concept down into parts.

A project starts with an idea to implement. The rest is about how to get it done, the steps involved, objectives, budgets etc.

But if you’re recording ideas in Evernote, some may be good, some not so good, the principle is to sort these ideas out and build your project out of this collective experience.

Moving new ideas into action is about recording positive ideas that you want to implement.

Breaking down items into parts

To illustrate top-down thinking.

Software is composed of modules which are composed of lines of code.

A cake is made of flour, eggs and chocolate. Flour is ground from wheat which is grown from seeds, eggs come from chickens which are fed on corn, chocolate comes from cocoa which is exported from South America. You get the point.

But in terms of relationships, a cake is in a direct relationship with its ingredients but knows chickens, seeds and South America only indirectly.

The relationship between cake, its ingredients, the cooking process and the basic ingredients are hierarchical which can be represented as follows:

breakdown of items
Decomposing a cake into its ingredients hierarchically

Breaking objectives into steps

In the organization of business action plans, it is important to break down objectives into steps in order to achieve them and to know whether steps are nested within a higher level or whether they are adjacent.

This may all seem rather academic, but it is part of formulating plans. This is where we talk about breaking it down and building up.

Bottom up projects

Bottom up projects are about building small ideas into big ideas.

A project may also start from a collection of observations, how to improve something, observations of operational failings, quality. The challenge is to make the aggregate project elegantly represent the sum of its parts, not leaving bits out.

overall business objectives

Bottom-up projects are about collecting and accumulating individual ideas and combining them into a project when they get to a critical mass.

Bottom up with Evernote and Ayoa

Evernote is used as the library, (now unavailable) was a valuable tool to explore notes and bring them together, when you already have all those ideas stored in the Evernote library.

Ayoa can help build up ideas into a workflow grid, brought in from Evernote and aggregated into a mindmap.

See more about driving task management with Evernote and Ayoa.

ayoa workflow

Evernote is useful to link together notes that might initially seem unconnected.

Evernote links ideas together

Here the links are drawn together use, a now defunct mapping layer.

mohio map

The process allows you to go back over these notes, potentially pull them into a project but also to evaluate them to see if they are if they fit in with a project.

  • Link ideas with tags and with link lines.
  • Ensure that all items have tags.

This may not seem very important in itself. But consider that you have already spent considerable time recording, defining and tagging items as notes.

This technique can also be used to define a system as a collection of like items.

The navigation in was highly dynamic, you could jump from tag to tag from stack to stack, easily finding related notes.

Recording business issues

You’ve been recording observations of problems using Evernote as a document library.

However you may need more structure to analyse your issues. In the Access form below, for each issue, you determine a possible cause and potential resolution.

When constituting a project, look for similar problems or issues that have the same solution.

However, you cannot always execute that solution straight away. You may lack time, need specific resources, or just because it’s more efficient to group issues together.

Issue recording form
Issue recording form

Make sure that you’re recording issues faithfully, so you capture the real observation and identifying potential solutions. This enables you to link them together and then create that bottom-up project.

Bottom-up analysis

Bottom-up analysis is where you have many problems and bring them together, to create a project to solve several issues.

You might know instinctively or intuitively that there are some issues out there could be solved together in one project.

We leave things aside until we can resolve them as a group in project mode.

Bottom-Up and Top-Down Projects
breakdown and build up

Top-down analysis

Top-down analysis is where you have one good idea, but it’s quite a big idea, perhaps a strategic issue, a long-term thing or just a big thing you might not be able to achieve in one step but more than one. There may be different components and subcomponents.

You want to break the big idea or concept into parts, and you want to give some thought to what those parts would look like by functional analysis.

Perhaps you want to implement is a process, a new service.

Bottom-Up and Top-Down

One example is from software, which is composed of modules formed of lines of code. We know that you can’t just implement a piece of software in one go, you have to write the code and design the modules.

The example of a cake made of different components: flour, eggs and chocolate. We know that we’ve got to mix those things in a specific order. You can’t mix the eggs with the flour until you’ve broken them.

Flour is milled from wheat which we grow from seeds. Eggs come from chickens fed on corn. Chocolate comes from cocoa, which we import from South America. But the relationship between cakes and chickens is only indirect.

Hierarchical relationships

These are components and subcomponents in a hierarchical relationship. There is a direct relationship between cakes, flour and eggs and an indirect link between cake, wheat and cocoa, so the connections are hierarchical. And there is an order, a sequence in which we can solve issues.

Bottom-Up and Top-Down Projects

So, there is this idea of breaking things down systematically, hierarchically, one level to the next.

top down bottom up analysis
top down bottom up analysis

In the bottom-up analysis, we have a bunch of issues that could group into a sensible project. A top-down analysis breaks an idea down into components to implement in parts.

This top-down and bottom-up analysis may be used as part of the management process.

Purpose is top-down

Purpose is a top-down approach. The idea is that if you have a purpose, you retro plan actions to achieve the objectives that the purpose defines.

However, GTD says there’s no point in having a purpose if you can’t get things done. If you do, then you can build on that to imagine higher objectives, a higher purpose.

Purpose can also give focus by providing a starting point.

Purpose is not only a higher objective, it can also be the reason why you get up in the morning.

Understanding Systems

This enables people to learn about their business, managers to gain understanding of the system in which they operate, students or theorists to understand their system models. In conjunction with UML, developers, designers, system modellers, lawmakers looking at social engineering, sociologists looking at human systems, society, the functioning of society and complex systems.

bottom up and top down

Anywhere where and the need to get a stand-back holistic vision of the whole, the sum of the parts, from the relationships between objects, concepts or nodes.

I will be offering examples of such systems analysis, but in general, I use the notation to set down objects in proximity with a view to gaining new perspectives. There is an aspect of the theoretical here. We will not always handle true, real-life systems, and we may talk about how-we-would-like-them-to-be systems, designing for improvement.

This may apply to any domain, business, educational, social, political. I wish there to be no-holes-barred. We could, for instance, describe the racism system as a study in understanding its causes, the actors, the thoughts, beliefs and cures, but the main aim is to describe the tools and explore the free-minded thinking.

Why is this useful or interesting?

I use for mind mapping on the basis of existing nodes or fitting new ones Can also be used to create notes directly in ‘mind map mode’. Not forgetting that when nodes are created in that they become ever notes which beg to be defined, filled in and the full power of Evernote is therefore available to go round through the cycle again.

Once you start to complete a note, you will find that, in completing the detail, that you come to better understand the subject in question.


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