Today’s advice is about writing it down. There is lots of writing to do during a project, but I think the most happens at the planning stage. When you are evaluating scope early on in the project, you are starting fresh. At this point, your job is not to reel them in. You need to simply write down everything that comes up. Even the dumb ideas, the un-doable ideas, and the small ideas. On this recent project of mine, I ran into three situations that I was glad I had written down what I heard, thought, and noted so that I could reference it later.
- In one case, it was a lower level employee had an idea to simplify her job. It sparked an organizational need that I wrote down to explore further. They had 10 different documents that were all lumped into one. Why? It made it cumbersome to sort through everything when we could create separation; a great idea but did it fit in the scope? It was a small change to management but made a big difference down the line and it quickly took a back-burner to other items that needed more attention. It didn’t resurface until the final list was reviewed, it was still there even though it was far down the list. But because it was well documented it was easy to readdress the need and the idea was raised in priority enough to make it into the phased project. This need may have come up again later in the project when it wouldn’t be as easy to add, so because I had notes to bring it up again before it was completely off the table, a valuable scope item was defined.
- In another case, we were at the final stage of the planning phase where certain scope ideas were being tabled to future releases. The important items were the accepted items and the high risk scope. Sometimes you don’t want to rehash the items far down the list due to time constraints. However, we reviewed all items, and the nods in the room were good for two reasons. One, they were easy decisions, “yes, this item doesn’t meet the scope requirements” for everyone to agree on. Having unanimous agreement is encouraging for everyone. And second, I got a smile from the submitter in that she appreciated the recognition. Her idea wasn’t forgotten. It wasn’t pointless. It just wasn’t in this project. By her facial experession, it was obvious that it meant something to her for her idea to not be lost and that I remembered even that issue. That is key because now, she has confidence in me that I won’t lose other things throughout the project.
- The last case we ran into was the dangerous assumption. Maybe I assume we don’t need it, or they assume we can do something with little to no risk. It is never as easy as simply the level of importance on issues. It can be frequency of the need, risk, price (time or money or both), or any number of things. There is a whole methodology in project management to assess value of each scope item. So the final review isn’t, “oh can we just add this little thing”. Don’t assume what it takes to complete something; write down what’s promised so assumptions don’t fall through the cracks.