Episode 4: Scope Surfer
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.