Getting Scope Right

Setting the proper scope is often more confusing than it seems. Ultimately it has to do with paying attention to the boundaries of time and impact. Initially scope seems pretty straightforward. You have a problem and you want to fix it.  But, as you begin talking to people you will find that two things happen.

First, their sense of what the issues are varies greatly from person to person. Each person will point you toward a locus of concern that is unique, stemming from his or her point-of-view. It will be challenging to decide which of the areas they point you toward should be part of the scope and which should not.

Second, you will find yourself zooming in and out like a microscope, focusing on both finer and coarser levels of granularity.  Choosing the level that is appropriate can be a trial in itself.

To help you set your scope, turn first to time.  How fast do you need a solution?  This month? This quarter? This year?   Identify the time envelope you need to operate inside and refer to it when issues of scope challenge you. If you need a solution this month and someone asks you to consider expanding the scope to a set of issues not likely to be solved this year, make the decision to cap the scope so you reap the timely result you need.

Next, consider impact. What kind of impact are you looking for? In the example with Shell, Larry wanted to free up the energy in the system.  He did not need to address innovation writ large, nor all technologies under consideration. He focused instead on the single application around which there was no forward movement.


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