Friday, February 24, 2017

Free Google Spreadsheet ACH Template!

Mercyhurst grad student, Sam Rosenthal, recently accepted my challenge to build a tool that had all (or most) of the features of the famous PARC 2.0.5 desktop software for doing Analysis Of Competing Hypotheses in a Google spreadsheet.  You can see what it looks like below and make a copy of the template for yourself by clicking on the picture.

Richards Heuer's method is widely taught but, despite several attempts, no one (to my knowledge) has ever succeeded in creating an ACH tool that made collaboration easy ("Easy" being the operative word here).  The Google suite of tools, including Google Docs and Sheets, has solved much of the collaboration problem, though.  Up to 50 people (!) can work on a single document simultaneously.

Having done this with as many 20 people, I can tell you that it is a pretty trippy experience.  Documents don't so much "get written" as "grow" when you have this many people writing and editing and formatting at once.  Everyone who participates in one of these massively multi-writer online experiences (MMOEs?) comes away amazed at how fast the process is and how analytically solid the final products turn out to be.

As good as this tool is, there are still some limitations.  First, it is a Google product and comes with all the usual baggage, caveats and idiosyncrasies of any Google product.  Second, to add more evidence or hypotheses you will have to cut and paste empty rows or columns.  Also, while many people can work on the spreadsheet at once, there is no way (yet!) to capture, aggregate and display the level of consistency or inconsistency with any given piece of evidence based on input from multiple users (other than using an analytic modifier such as Nominal Group Technique to come up with a collective answer for each piece of evidence).  Sam is working on integrating Google Forms into the spreadsheet such that this becomes a possibility.  He hasn't yet figured out how to make days last 28 hours, though, so I don't know when we can expect this update.

Instructions for saving a copy of the spreadsheet: 
Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people will be looking at this spreadsheet over the next few days. DON'T start playing around with it until you make a copy! Click on the picture or link above and, when the spreadsheet opens up, go to the "File" tab on the spreadsheet (top left) and click on it. Then click on the "Make a Copy" link. This will let you make a copy to your personal account so you can play with it as much as you want.

Finally, don't hesitate to share but just give Sam credit for the good work!


Unknown said...

This is great! Although, I could have used the extra credit in grad school if this challenge was posed during my time there.

Anonymous said...

Will give a try but 'make a copy' is greyed out when I go to FILE.
Not sure why yet.
If I save as an excel spreasheet will it function correctly?

Kristan J. Wheaton said...

I have heard this from one other user but no one else seems to be having a problem. If you can download it, do so. You can then upload it your own Google drive if you want. Sorry about the kludgy workaround, though.

Kristan J. Wheaton said...

Sorry! You would have killed this assignment!

Anonymous said...

'make copy' issue resolved by opening Google account first and the link uploads automatically then and I can save it in my Google account.

Vicious said...

Some of the blogs you link to on the side are dead.

The Jihad blog failed to renew and is inaccessible.

LeslieG said...

Kris -
Great tool. For organizations that want to keep things in-house, I would think a similar approach using Excel Online might work. I haven't tried it though, so can't say for sure how well the collaborative side works in Excel.


Victoria Allen said...

Kris, is it possible to save the matrix in a digital file for inclusion in an analytical product as an annex? Last year when you introduced the Google Spreadsheet ACH tool, you focused on collaborative use by multiple contributors. Is the inability to convert the Google tool into a digital file (alterable or otherwise) a result of the Google platform altogether, or of having multiple contributors? I've been looking for several years for an actual Excel tool that could duplicate the function of Heuer's ACH, but which would allow me to save the product as a document that I could include in a report when requested by a client.


Victoria (RIAP '09)

Kristan J. Wheaton said...

Victoria, yes it is. Once you have made a copy to your own Google Drive account, click on File>Download As and you should be able to save it into any format you need. Kris

MAJ O'Malley said...

After adding additional columns I am unable to change the formula to represent the new column. Any suggestions?

Matt Perez said...

I'm trying to use this with an online class of 40 undergrads. I want to have them give individual input on consistency and inconsistency. I saw the caveat you mentioned in the post. Any suggestions on how to manage it? Intuitively I think I'd need to give each of the students a copy, ask them to grade the evidence/assumptions on their own, and return to me to tally for a consensus. Welcome your advice.

Matt Perez