house painter arrived with his crew on Monday morning. He
had earlier given me a detailed estimate and we had picked a
day a few weeks into the future to start work. They showed
up on time, had the tools ready and quickly worked up a
plan. The crew started work 10 minutes after they arrived.
thinking “He’s quite a professional. I wish all I.T.
projects worked that way, ” as I do whenever I see a group
of people flawlessly execute a complicated plan. I knew the
exterior of the house would look great when they were done.
In the next
few days, Charlie and his team continued to impress me. I’d
go around the house when I got the chance to inspect their
work. At times I would discover various minor repair items
that needed to be done unrelated to painting. But those
needed a lot more time, expertise and courage than I had.
They had the tools and they had the 30-foot extendable
ladders that my wife wouldn’t let me get on. I’d ask
Charlie, and he’d say “no problem.” A few hours later
or the next day, I’d see them work on that.
I’d say to myself. Good painter, but doesn’t know his
scope management at all. He could lose money that way. “Maybe
I’ll talk to him about that at the end of the job.”
Charlie a number of times about a small but persistent roof
leak we had been having. He’d say, ”I’m not a roofer,
but I think your problem is such and such, etc.” He would
give me advice about what I needed to fix it but would not
volunteer to do it. I finally had to ask, “Charlie, will
you fix that?”
Charlie’s hidden scope management skills surfaced. He went
up, examined the whole roof and said: “David, I found a
couple of other leaks. You know the roof wasn’t part of
the estimate. I can do it for this much.” I accepted the
offer; he got the materials and fixed the leaks.
You see, he
knew what he had to manage. He knew how to recognize change,
he knew how to react to change, and he knew how to recognize
People in the
service business have perfected these techniques over the
ages. Painters, carpenters, builders, car mechanics,
landscapers and others know where the boundaries of their
services lie. Is that so different from I.T. projects?
For a very
large number of participants in our workshops “scope creep”
is at the top of the problems they struggle with. It shows
they’re aware that scope creep has been recognized for a
long time as one of the top causes of project failure. But
most I.T. professionals interpret that as having to “stick
to their guns”, “deflect any and all changes”, “get
the client to sign the change order” etc. In other words,
a disease that has to be fought, an almost personal attack
on the service provider.
It’s only so
if you let it. Scope evolves for a number of reasons. I will
only list some of the “valid” ones: Your client has
acquired more knowledge of the problem and a better insight
into the solution. So have you. Business requirements may
have changed due to market realities, regulatory changes or
developments in the underlying technologies.
Make sure you
have a good scope definition and know it very well. You will
not survive if you don’t have those. Then tune your “receiver”
to recognize scope change signals.
Change signals arrive in many forms other than the direct
and clear-cut “You will also perform such and such.” For
example, when you’re asked to go talk to a person or
department who had not been anywhere on your radar screen
before - you can be sure there’s scope change coming
statements that begin with: “I wish it did . . .”, “You
know, it will have to...”, “By the way, . . .”, “Come
to think of it , … “ are all classic change signals.
best way to react to scope changes? (I should really have
said “scope change attempts.” A change attempt is only
an attempt until all sides agree.)
Here’s a 3-step approach you can use with many of the
scope change attempts (SCA) you encounter:
1. Take a
breath, deeper than usual. The SCA is not a personal attack.
And it is rarely a case of the client trying to get “something
for nothing”. The deep breath also gives you an extra
fraction of a second to perform the 2nd step.
2. Think for
about three seconds: Is this really a change? How sure am I?
If I object, can I support my objection? Or is it just an
inconvenience I’m trying to avoid? Then, if it’s worth
questions (instead of making statements.) “Has this been
there all along or is this new?” . . . ”Did I miss that
part? . . .” “Did you mean to make this a part of our
current phase?” . . . “Wasn’t this resolved earlier?”
etc. About half of all SCA’s can be overcome with similar
clarifying questions as the scope changers will recognize
they are going beyond the original agreement and step back
or postpone the change.
If they don’t
step back, then ask ”Can we discuss this later as it
appears to be beyond our scope -- as I understand it?”,
giving them the benefit of doubt and you the time to
formulate a proposed approach to handling the change.
formulated response includes a clear description of the
change, suggested alternatives, the impact on the schedule
and/or cost of the project, the associated risks and a
clearly defined path for the evaluation and approval of the
alternatives. That’s why you need more time.
Can some scope
changes be allowed to just happen? It depends on the effort
required, the leeway your project manager has given you and
most importantly, whom you are committing for the delivery
of that change. Remember the former senator who said, “A
billion here, a billion there, pretty soon we’re talking
SCOPE CHANGE -- AN OPPORTUNITY ?
Absolutely. Some scope changes that are clearly beyond your
original work package may turn out to be the source of
additional work - commonly called add-on work, engagement
expansion, upselling etc.
management always keeps that possibility in mind. It’s a
great way to turn a possible threat into an advantage. Some
service organizations thrive by expanding existing projects
by identifying additional “value-added” work they can
perform for their clients. The keyword is “value-added,”
not “nickel and diming” or “padding the contract.”
Your client will be happier for it. And your project manager
and employer will love you for it.
As Captain Renault reminds us in the movie “Casablanca”
where he says “Round up the usual suspects”, it doesn’t
hurt to keep in mind a profile of client characteristics
that commonly cause scope changes.
Or as Charlie
would say, “I can tell those who are going to give me a
hard time by the state of their front lawns.”
See if you recognize any of the following from your vantage
point, add to the list if you need to and be extra receptive
when you’re with them:
only sporadic involvement with your project (part-timers)
only recent involvement (parachutists)
don’t recognize in meetings (“new faces”)
whose existence depends on demonstrating superior
list and keep it on your mind at all times. It will keep you
from missing important change signals.
HOW MUCH OF
CHARLIE DO YOU SEE IN YOURSELF? His sense of boundaries,
his commitment to serve, his discovery of new opportunities?
reached the end of the job, I asked Charlie about scope
expansion. He said, “Well the first few were freebies
because I pretty much had built in those in the estimate,
but the roof - I had to charge you.”
And how much
extra do you think he ended up charging me? I would bet my
roof he charged me enough to cover the roof work AND the
minor “free” repairs.
When he came
in to get his check, he went straight to the dining room,
which is under the first leak I had noticed. He looked up to
the ceiling, looked at me and . . .
What do you think he said?
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said what you thought, visit :
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