Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Project "Scope Creep" - CHAOS UNLEASHED

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Projects are generally implemented in stages, and their components are compartmentalized, with each department (or individual) expected to focus on some specific, well-defined scope of responsibilities. When one individual treads out of his or her scope, and into another individual's, this is what Project Managers refer to as "scope creep." It invariably creates a breakdown in systems, procedures and progress. It causes crossed wires, confusion and a wonderful textbook case of the Law Of Diminishing Returns.

Its usual causes are several:

1. intellectual curiosity and a need to "share" or "meddle".

2. a lack of trust or faith in the ability, work ethic or intentions of one or more of the project team members by some other member or members.

3. a poorly-defined scope and separation of responsibilities, or of project phases.

These can be either prevented or minimized by several means:

1. carefully and clearly define the scope of responsibility and principal focus of each project team participant;

2. Be certain that a member of the team is a coordinating communications and liaison officer -- a person through whom any "ultra-scope" ideas must be presented before being discussed with other team members. This tends to discourage creepage, but serves as a means of aggregating (capturing) some ideas which may prove useful;

3. The Project Manager should remind each of the team members of his or her principal focus, scope and function at regular intervals to prevent straying from the planned path, and to minimize the temptations or incentives to chaotic creeping.

A culture of mutual respect and trust amongst the project team should be fostered, and some periodic forum should be devised where team members can creep a bit in the interest of brainstorming and bonding. That's actually healthy.

Douglas E Castle []

p.s. I will admit, openly, and with great shame, that I am a pathological scope creeper, a focus transgressor, a C-Factor interference variable, a chronic polisher of that which has already been polished, a last-minute re-editor, a subject disruptor and a team polarizer. I have also, on occasion, and while minding someone else's business, stepped on a rake and and had the handle come flying up and hit me in the head. Could the Universe be trying to tell me something? 

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