How to Identify & Clarify a Project Scope

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Clarifying project scope often prevents frustration and anger.
Clarifying project scope often prevents frustration and anger. (Image: Photos.com/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Identifying and clarifying a project's scope is often the difference between successfully completing a project and disastrous failure. How does a project become years overdue and millions of dollars over-budget? One day and one dollar at a time, says David Allen, in his landmark book Getting Things Done. By purposefully identifying and clarifying project scope, you will have a potent tool to keep projects on-schedule and under-budget; which can lead to not only a sense of accomplishment, but also professional acclaim and financial rewards.

Things You'll Need

  • Pen
  • Paper

Determine the deliverables a successful project will produce. Visualize what a properly executed project will accomplish. Write down the good things that successful completion will bring and the bad things that successful completion will prevent. Finish the following sentence, "This project will be successfully completed when... ;" then list the intended objectives of your project as they spring to mind.

Consult with other stakeholders such as your managers, colleagues, and clients to ensure that there is agreement on the deliverables the project will produce, and concurrence regarding the objectives of the project.

Where possible, get an unimpeachable authority figure like a manager or client to endorse the specific scope of a project, as originally agreed upon by the stakeholders. Then tactfully point belated dissidents to the unimpeachable authority figure as the person(s) to whom suggestions for new project scope and objectives should be directed.

Begin executing the project and ensure that you use meetings, consultations, and other clear communications that focus on the objectives and scope of the project to keep stakeholders apprised that the project is adhering to its stated objectives and scope.

Tips & Warnings

  • Restrictively white-list the items that are within the scope of a project, and exhaustively blacklist the areas that are out of scope of a project. Ensure that the white-list is very specific, even granular, in its focus; while the blacklist can be a list of general areas determined to be outside the scope of the project.
  • Avoid mission creep at all costs, also commonly called feature creep by software engineers. Normally mission creep occurs due to a failure to ensure that all stakeholders are aligned on project objectives and deliverables prior to commencing a project; or indecision and discomfort with turning down the addition of belated objectives and requests for new deliverables when a project has begun.

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