“If you establish proper project scope, then your project planning and execution is much more effective, but you must spend time with your customers ahead of planning to define and agree on what’s in and what’s out.”
If your day job is building houses, you can call me “Captain Obvious” after hearing what I am about to say. What goes into a house and what doesn’t is an ongoing source of negotiation, compromise, and often controversy. So, builders are well aware of the importance of knowing what their housing projects include and don’t include; it’s the “air” that they breathe.
The line that is drawn in any project, like building a house, is where you should look to see what is included and what is not included in the project, this is called the scope.
Defining the scope for a project does a number of good things in setting up a project for success. But primarily, it defines what “done” means for a project. With a project scope, you can easily tell if the expected work was done or it wasn’t.
As a project manager, you will want to include in project scope, the components of the product to be delivered (e.g., the house) of course. But also remember to include the events or other products that will be needed to finish the project, like conducting an owner walk through.
Image a Box
So that you avoid a muddy statement of project scope, i.e., what the project will “do” and what it won’t “do”, imagine your project as being in a box that is closed on all 6 sides. Leave a slot open on one side where you will insert things. The things you will insert are called deliverables, what the project will produce.
Next draw a circle around the box and label it, "Project Boundaries.” Inside the circle, identify things that the project will do on the way to producing deliverables, such as “owner walk through”, “aerial photo of finished property”, “filing deed of ownership."
Finally, get agreement on the project scope from your buyers. This should not be a problem if you involved them throughout the project scope definition process.
“True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.” - Winston Churchill
The purpose of establishing project scope is to clearly articulate what you are taking responsibility for delivering on the project. With it, you can plan your project more confidently, you put yourself in control of wandering scope, and you empower your project team to work efficiently and proudly. Without it, you run the risk of expensive product rework, blown expectations, and a never-ending project.