Lab Notes

GoKart Method: Horizons

Horizons is one of the proven methods we use here at GoKart to solve problems. It’s used to gain clarity on the specific timing of key milestones within any given project.

What Is Horizons?

A guided conversation to define what has to happen to accomplish a large goal.

Why We Do It

Horizons helps break down large goals into smaller, more tangible pieces. For example, signing up to run a marathon may seem overwhelming at first. That’s why you don’t go out and run 26.2 miles right away. You break it down into shorter runs and work your way towards your goal.

Horizons is a collaborative way to have your whole team determine a plan, while driving immediate clarity so everyone knows what needs to be done and by when to be successful.

How To Do It

  1. Draw out the project’s ultimate objective or outcome in the upper right hand corner of a whiteboard. This objective should be clear to everyone in the room and should be very easy to understand whether or not it has been achieved. This is the final “horizon” of the project and is the primary reason we’re doing any work up until that point.
  2. Work with the team to identify the other “horizons.” These are the other key things that must be true in order to reach the final horizon. These horizons are not tasks; rather, they’re the most important outcomes that we must accomplish in order to complete the primary objective. Try to limit these to fewer than 5 horizons; ideally, there should be 3-4. Each horizon should follow the same criteria…it’s clear to everyone and is simple to identify when it’s done or not.
  3. Discuss and negotiate the horizons to make sure the team agrees they’re right.
  4. Draw lines underneath each horizon that curve to the right of the board
  5. If it helps make the horizons clear, write the characteristics of the horizon at the bottom of the line.
  6. Starting with the first horizon, collect things that have to be done to complete the objective. These can be deliverables, but are usually tasks that have to be accomplished and items that other team members or other tasks are dependent upon. These tasks can be defined in one of two ways, depending on the complexity of the project:
    • For complex projects with many workstreams and team members, ask each person to spend 3-5 minutes writing each task they think needs to be done on a post-it note with a sharpie. Then, have each member place their post-it notes on each horizon and explain. After everyone has shared, theme the tasks by workstream.
    • For simpler projects, the facilitator will ask the group to tell them the tasks that need to be accomplished and they’ll write them on the board.
  7. Once the group feels like the tasks are right, go back and assign timelines and deadlines to the horizons.
  8. Finally, the facilitator can either assign owners to the tasks and work streams as a group, or make that a to-do from the session.

Best Practices/Tips:

  • This method will take between 3 minutes and 2 hours long, depending on the complexity of the project.
  • The session will be more productive if all members of the team have been briefed on the opportunity beforehand…both the outcome we’re trying to drive, as well as what the project means for the team when we nail it.
  • A horizon is at the right level of fidelity when it is an outcome, not a deliverable. “Client approves design” not “Design complete” as this will help drive the things that will ensure success.
  • A task is at the right level of fidelity when more than one person needs to know it’s done.
  • Like an object on the horizon, a task might become more clear as you get closer to it. It is ok if there are some unknowns and for the task to not be fully defined, just be sure to revisit this exercise after each horizon and fill in the tasks for the next horizon as details become more clear.

This method works for both personal and professional goals. Give this method a try and let us know how it goes.


Matthew is a walking dichotomy: a strategic designer, a metric-driven UA guy, a believer in traditional AND emerging media. He’s an economist and a songwriter, a creative soul who loves numbers, a lover of dogs, a fighter for the arts, and a darn fine cook to boot.

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