Managing Project Scope and Achieving Agility Are Not Incongruous

Define the scope inclusions AND exclusions.

Sometimes defining what you are not going to do is more important than knowing what you are going to do. Just understanding which sandbox you are supposed to be playing in can solve a lot of problems on the playground.

Use just in time planning.

Determine whether you want to plan out the work in phases, and if so, focus on defining all of the phases and then, just plan out the first one. Some projects need to be planned out more fully from the beginning. Others lend themselves to a phased approach. If you are working on a project that needs to be planned in phases, try to get a general understanding of each phase, and then, plan out the first one well.

Use a visual work breakdown structure.

I recommend a visual work breakdown structure. For most of us, a picture is worth a thousand words. If you don’t know how to do this, read this blog. The key here is to identify the essential activities and to clearly define what ‘done’ looks like. Don’t try to identify every phone call, document review, or experiment that needs to be done. There will be time for that, but at this point, the goal is to break the project down far enough that you can estimate the cost. Will the activity take one person a day or five people three weeks? Who will do the work? Who will be in charge of each activity? What kind of quality is needed on each activity? Are there any risks or issues?

Engage the team on budget conversations.

Make it a responsibility of the team to create and then, live within the budget. Use your work breakdown structure and estimate a cost for each of the essential activities. Estimate higher when there are more unknowns to keep the client from being blind-sided. Encourage the team members to scream loudly and quickly when there is a problem. Most clients are pretty reasonable when they understand the unknowns.

Work in sprints or short blocks of time where you focus on a specific batch of work.

I typically recommend that teams work in two-week blocks of time, and during that time, stay focused on a selected group of activities. Resist the urge to spread yourselves so thinly that you don’t finish the work that you have designated for that sprint. On a quickly moving project, you may want to move to one-week sprints, and if the project doesn’t need speed, perhaps you go with three or even four-week sprints.

Use the end of each sprint to plan the work that is to be done in the next sprint.

During each sprint, you should stay highly focused on finishing the work that you selected. At the end of every sprint, you will review what you have accomplished and identify the next items of work. You need to get commitment from the people who have been selected to do the work during the next sprint that they are available. Focus on getting a commitment to delivering the work, rather than getting a commitment to being available.



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Suzanne S. Davenport

Suzanne S. Davenport


Writes on project management, leadership, team building, and value delivery. Imagining work management in the future.