The Worst Thing You Can Do On A Project

Mike Girdler

Poor scope statements – 3 examples of its impact on your project  Interested in having your project fail? Of course you’re not. However, time and time …

Poor scope statements – 3 examples of its impact on your project 

PM mistakesInterested in having your project fail? Of course you’re not. However, time and time again I hear of projects failing – coming in over budget, coming in late, or not meeting the needs of the stakeholder because of one reason – a poorly defined scope statement. Not developing a solid scope statement is simply the worst thing you can do on a project.

A properly defined and air tight scope statement, in broad terms, provides the understanding, or agreement, amongst everyone associated with the project, and those impacted by the project: the sponsor, the stakeholders, the project manager and the project team.

The scope statement outlines exactly why you are undertaking a particular project. It provides a brief description of the project. It spells out the deliverables, establishes the boundaries for the project – what is not in scope, and defines what success looks like. It outlines the eventual product of the project, and also the constraints and assumptions on the project. In short, a well written scope statement will remove any misunderstanding about the project, and sets you up for project success.

Now you know what a good scope statement is and can do for project success, but what happens when your scope statement isn’t tight? There are 3 examples I’ll highlight.

1. Project scope creep can occur. It’s very easy for additional project elements to be added to your project if the scope statement does not clearly define what is in scope and what is not part of the scope. A solid scope statement gives the project manager the back-up to say no to unwarranted change requests, and prevent any possible scope creep.

2. Stakeholder dissatisfaction with the project deliverable. How can you be certain you and your team are producing something that satisfies your stakeholders without a mutual understanding and agreement upon the outcome? Just imagine the potential for waste and rework. Investing resources into a project only to wrap up and receive a “This isn’t what we were expecting” from your stakeholders.

3. Ineffective planning and management. How can you effectively plan and manage a project when there’s no uniform understanding between all players?  Again, without a tight scope statement, for example, your plan may overlook constraints or assumptions that can have a huge impact on costs, available resources, and timelines on your project.

These are just a few high level examples of what can go wrong if you don’t set your project up for success from the start with a solid scope statement. Not having a good scope statement simply adds up to the worst thing you can do on a project.

How do you prevent  the worst possible thing from happening on your projects? Feel free to leave a comment below or shout out to us on Facebook or Twitter. Of course, you could always write your own blog post on the subject and share it with us… We’d love to read it!

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Michael Girdler is a vice-president, CornerStone Dynamics Inc. His blogs focus on all things project management. Throughout Mike's career, he has invested deeply into projects involving sales, marketing, training and development, continuing education, and communications environments.

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