Three Step Cure for Controlling Scope

On a project, scope is one of the key components a project manager must control.  It is the component of the triple constraint that most often invokes the ‘project management as art’ description, perhaps only rivaled with the art of stakeholder management.  This is likely because scope  expectations are  really deliverable expectations, as scope defines the deliverables promised at the end of the project.  What customer will not try to get more?  I think it is in human nature to always push to get the most out of a project.

It is also the case that no matter what we plan we cannot see the future. This means that we cannot know all of the opportunities and problems that will arise when producing something new, no matter how many times we have done something similar.  Projects are by their very definition unique.

In listening to project managers discuss scope I have come to realize that some are a little afraid of scope.  The hushed tones and slight trauma they express reminds me of children scaring each other with ghost stories.  Scope creep, or requirements change, is one of those areas that is always challenging in that it has the most potential to utterly destroy a carefully crafted a project plan.  Some project managers respond by trying to shut down all scope changes during a project, but while this can protect the project plan it also can lead to a project that has poor quality deliverables because opportunities were missed during the project.  It is important to come to terms with the fact that changes are inevitable on a project and that the important skill is not in preventing change, but in learning to deal with it effectively.

How to deal effectively with scope:

  1. Make sure EVERYBODY knows the project scope.
  2. Train the entire team to know how to respond to scope change requests.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Controlling scope is a team effort.  Everyone should understand the project’s baseline scope, what the outcome of the project should be, and everyone on the team should understand how to respond appropriately to a customer request.   The fact is that your team members want to make the customer happy and if they don’t know how to handle requests they may inadvertently commit the team to a change that has far reaching consequences for the project.  It is also critical that any changes that are approved are communicated and documented for everyone to see.

There are many good videos that discuss how to manage scope.  Here is one from Project Manager.com on You Tube: