During a recent stand-up with a colleague, I mentioned that I was growing concerned with our stakeholder’s ever-expanding list of issues and scope creep. Each day we met to review, more problems were uncovered. My more experienced colleague shrugged her shoulders and said “Mo’ meetings, mo’ problems.” Of course, I laughed at the phrase, but it really caught my attention. All projects begin with an outline of work that needs to be accomplished. The work typically represents one to a few problems the company struggles with. Project scope is based on the known problems and amount of work required to solve them. When you begin wading through the possible solutions, and present your findings to stakeholders, don’t be surprised if an “ah-ha!” moment interrupts the review process. Taking apart issues presented during the meeting may just open a can of worms that your stakeholder will want to address then and there. So, how do you manage these moments and discussions?
1. Keep an Issues List.
Note-taking during meetings is beneficial for many reasons, including documenting issues as they arise. Your meeting minutes may contain action items, but what about items that cannot be acted on without being addressed further? Document these separately, and discuss with appropriate team members immediately. You may find that in order to implement the solutions you have proposed, another business problem must first be solved. I must note here the beauty of the agile methodology. Using short sprints in your project will allow time to address any new issues, instead of glossing over them and pushing forward to a product concept.
2. Address critical risks as they arise.
By “arise,” by no means am I referring to mid-meeting. Do not try to create the immediate “solution,” take a little time to chew on the information you received. Speak with the appropriate people. Do not lead your stakeholder to believe that you can solve every problem within the company during your allotted time. Be honest and transparent. Not only will you gain the stakeholder’s trust, you will also save yourself from possible project failure by recognizing pitfalls on the path to your solution. You may also bring in important points of contact for the project who were not mentioned during project kickoff. Let your stakeholder know what the risks are, and discuss how they may be mitigated.
3. Be proactive.
“Wait a second, did I just hear another possible project idea?”
Turn those issues into a project proposal.
“I understand that we are uncovering more issues that must be addressed. Although these do not fit within the scope of our current project, here are a few ideas I have that may be addressed in a separate project.” And remember, not all problems have to be problems for you! Manage these issues and address them in an appropriate and timely manner.
How do you and your team deal with growing scope?