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The Self Evident Truths of Project Management: Truth # 11: “Project scope is a weapon of opportunity not control”

The Self Evident Truths of Project Management: Truth # 11: “Project scope is a weapon of opportunity not control”

The assumption that initial scope is the final scope, need not be the case.

If you mention the word “Scope” to a most people around projects the first word they think of is “control”. As a result too often projects are scoped too tightly from the outset as part of this ‘control’ mentality, missing large areas of real value because of how the scope is defined.

“Too broad a scope can lead to ‘analysis paralysis’," is one argument.

“We can’t deliver complex projects, so we’ll keep the scope focused” is another argument.

The underlying assumption is that the initial scope is the final scope. This does not need to be the case; indeed it should not be the case.

Imagine if you have a tract of land and you are prospecting for gold. You could define your prospecting scope to be one section of the land that you reasonably expect to contain gold. Or, you can prospect the whole land to find out where the gold really is. With the latter approach you’ll not only find where the concentration of gold is but why it is not worthwhile prospecting in the other areas (avoiding later scope creep). Importantly, you’ll know where the value is.

This is the concept behind “opportunity scope” management. At the beginning of the project you define the scope broadly so you can discover where the value is. THEN you can hone down the scope to the “solution scope” at the business case step to focus the project, and its associated investment (cost), on the areas with the greatest returns.

Often, we have found, you can deliver 90% of the value for 60% of the cost. By splitting your project into ‘opportunity’ and then ‘solution’ scope allows you to invest just some funds to find where the value is, and then focus the majority of your funding on the areas of greatest value, knowing that you’ve identified where that real value lies.

© Jed Simms, Australia, 2009. Jed@valuedeliverymanagement.com


Further support and useful tools to help you manage your investments, projects and portfolio are available from valuedeliverymanagement.com.

For the previous article in this series visit The Self Evident Truths of Project Management: Truth # 10 “Success comes from being excellent at ‘what’ not ‘how’.”.

For the first article in this series visit The Self Evident Truths of Project Management: Truth #1 - We do projects to realise the Associated benefits.

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