Project Management Approach and Scope Creep

January 31, 2024


I came across some discussions about what should be a proper Project Management Approach.

Whether the Project Management should be focused on managing people, and the team, without the need to understand the project content.

Another approach is to understand the project content and participate in even leading the project content creation.
Project Management Approach – Focus on People Management

I met numerous people that had a strong opinion that understanding the domain your team is working within is not necessary or even something that can undermine the capability to successfully manage the team or project.

This group of people prefers just to be focused on managing people’s performance. It’s called People Management.

It basically means:
• You pass the goal definition to the team with the task to elaborate the path to the goal and prepare a Project plan with all the tasks, effort estimates, budget…
• Your team is reporting the work progress and you check the work progress just according to the plan and ask them unpleasant questions in case the team is not on track.
• In the case of any issue that pops up you ask the team for a solution proposal or action you have to make to resolve the issue. I have experience with a guy asking the team for action he can execute by a short phone call. I see some value in this approach.

Project Management Approach – Focus on Content

I’ve got personal experience with Project Managers from other parts of the world; with the opposite Project Management approach than People Management.

They are in some; more or less; focused on the content creation of any form. I once had a lady PM on the interview.

She had a brilliant CV, and I almost felt like a beginner compared to my experience with hers.

What do I understand as a result of the interview? She was actually doing business analysis in the position of Project Manager.

Typical aspects of Content Focus:
• Participation in content creation that grows up to the commitment to craft real deliverables. It can effectively block PM from PM work thus paralyzing her/him.
• Preparation of the project plan, effort estimates, and resource plans that can again range from facilitation of the project team workshops to sole development of all plans needed.
• Active or even proactive issue resolution with the active generation of possible solution options with the variable participation of her/his project mates.
Project Management Approach – What is the best approach?

A good challenging question. Like always. What is the best Project Management Approach? And the answer is? Like always.

Good balance of both sides of the world. Sorry, just my opinion. I love to create things, generate ideas, and strategies, and even participate in detailed work.

I love working with my team. Lead them through the course of the project.

Understanding or even participating in content creation and delivery will give you feel of success, and help you to report the Project’s progress during steering committee meetings. You will be fast in your decision-making and issue resolution.

What’s the trick? You should be able to flexibly move between these two poles of the world as necessary.

Sometimes you can go and create something when there is space for it or your team is in trouble.

Sometimes you have to set back from creativity and let your team do their job and you should go to do yours.
Project Scope

Any Project Manager with any real project experience knows that the Project Manager’s life is not easy. There is one thing that could make your project road a little less bumpy.

This sacred item is a Project Scope. It has to protect you against Scope creep.

What is the Project Scope?

Project scope is in fact definition of what is required to be delivered (created, implemented, etc.) by executing the Project.

In addition to that definition of what is NOT expected to be delivered always pays off as well.
Project scope can be expressed by any means. It depends on used methodology or project standards of the company you’re working for.

The situation is different if you are the vendor or you are the internal Project Manager. Then you usually work with different types of documents.

It can be a Project Scope Document, Statement of Work (SOW), Project Definition Document, and much more. However, the aim of the document is the same.

You need something that clearly states what is required to be delivered and what is not.
What is the Scope Creep?

Scope creep is a nightmare not only for the Project Managers. It usually means that you are getting out of the defined scope. You can be out in many ways.

You can be pushed to deliver more, less, or something different than originally defined. In any case, you are heading into serious trouble if this is not under control.

You can actually change anything if this is required by your client and you keep other project parameters under control.

What do I mean by saying “under control”, It means everything is approved by Steering Committee and you are able to deliver it within a defined framework i.e. Scope, time, effort, resources, and money.

How to Avoid Scope Creep

Scope Creep is usually tricky to manage. In the worst case, you’re the one who does it.

Why? Because you want to deliver something really good for your business (good) regardless of what is specified in the Project Scope Document (bad).

You will be always in the push to change the scope either by yourself or any stakeholder. You should allow them to change the Project scope.

It’s natural that requirements are getting clarified, better understood, or changed during the course of the project.

To avoid Scope creep i.e. uncontrolled changes in the Project Scope it should be executed under the governance of the Change Management Process.

How Change Management protects you from Scope Creep?

Using Change Management means any required change in the Project Scope has to be documented.

On each Change Request (CR) you have to execute an Impact analysis to understand what the Change Request means for effort, time, money, and required resources.

Then you need to get it approved by the appropriate project governance body; usually a Steering Committee. Once it’s approved you need to adjust your plans accordingly.

Having a formal Change Request process established will protect you from unwanted Project Scope Changes – Scope Creep.

In addition to that creating and processing the Change Request requires quite some effort.

It will naturally filter out most of the ideas with low business value. If somebody requests something without being willing to spend energy to create and process the Change Request, it has most probably low value for her/him and for the business as well.

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