Episode 34: Scope Surfer

Episode 4: Scope Surfer


Source: http://marvel.wikia.com/Norrin_Radd_(Earth-616)

Scope Management a topic so worthy of discussion it is a knowledge area all it’s own in PMI’s Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK). Like an anti-villain, scope can be a project manager’s ally or enemy.  As an ally to the project manager, the project scope provides boundaries for the project and creates a frame of reference when questions arise.  However, left unmanaged scope can become the project manager’s worst enemy.  Shifting priorities and conflicting view points can take the scope from well defined to out of control thus leading to over runs and potentially project failure.

Mastering scope management is not an easy task.  We can take from the lessons of Marvel’s famous anti-villain The Silver Surfer. Born to a world that was able to solve every problem imaginable (i.e. crime, disease, hunger, poverty) the Silver Surfer sought out opportunities for freedom.

 “I am not a god. I have never created life…but I have lived. That is enough. So I will fight to preserve that same opportunity to love, to dream, to soar among the stars for all those yet to come. Many lives will be lost in the battle ahead but their efforts will ensure that some remain to remember their deeds. And, like the gods, they will truly live forever even after they are gone.”  — Silver Surfer

Armed with powers given to him by Galactus, the Silver Surfer could manipulate matter, sustain himself without food or water, and could travel beyond the speed of light.  In the beginning his scope was clear, find new planets for Galactus to devour.  By offering up new planets, Norrin Radd (Silver Surfer) could spare his own planet.

Upon his encounter with Earth, the Silver Surfer’s motives changed and instead of offering up the planet for Galactus, he joined forces with the Fantastic Four to save planet Earth.  This effort in itself was not without cost as the Silver Surfer was confined to Earth by a cosmic energy barrier.

A change to scope is not necessarily a bad thing.  In the case of the Silver Surfer, saving planet Earth was obviously a worthy change in course.  As a project manager don’t assume just because organizational management has an idea, that it is a good idea.  Make sure to discuss the proposed change to ensure the impacts are thoroughly understood.  Before committing to the change: explore alternatives, estimate the cost of the change, and identify risks associated with making the change.  If the change still seems like the right direction take it through a change control process.  For the project manager a change control process will help ensure the project stays on the right track.  Once approved be diligent to document the change and update any project management documents including the risk register.

A project manager that can develop a super power in scope management will have an upper hand to do battle with villains like scope creep.


Episode 23: Tweet the Vision

In the last episode we learned that a successful team starts with team members being able to commit to the goal.  In a smaller project the task is made easier to rally the team around the goal.  However, in a larger project with team members that are distributed geographically it can be difficult to ensure team members are committed to the goal.  As a Project Manager, I like to use group exercises that help re-enforce project goals.  One exercise I have developed to communicate the project goals or vision is a “tweet”.  This exercise is taken from the popular social media site Twitter and is a great activity for the kick-off meeting.

Activity Name: Tweet the vision

Equipment Needed:

  • Index Cards
  • Pens
  • Tape


Ensure that all team members understand the goals of the project and are aligned to a common vision.


1. Ask team members to write a vision statement based on their knowledge of the project.  The statement must communicate the vision in just 140 characters.  Note: You may need to explain Twitter to team members unfamiliar with the social media site.

Twitter is an online social networking that utilizes small blog type posts enabling users to send and read “tweets”.  Every user is limited to just 140 characters.

2. After all team members have had a chance to write the vision tweet go around the room and ask each team member to read their tweet to the project team.  The funniest part of this exercise is hearing the tags team members add to the project.

3. Collect all the index cards and tape them to a common place on a wall or door.  This allows team members to get up and read the tweets during breaks and continue to re-enforce the project goals through out the meeting.