Is there ever an occasion where you can't lock-down scope on a project?
As the demand for improved speed to market increases, it is becoming more difficult to arrive at an agreed project scope, especially if the stakeholders of the project are very senior managers or board members. Often projects start with an idea that needs to be developed and this thinking happens throughout the life of the project. It means you never arrive at a fully signed off scope. What should you do in this situation?
Refuse the project, which could prove career limiting.
Insist on a signed off scope, which the stakeholders are incapable of providing.
Start work with an agreed draft scope, knowing things will change.
Build what you think is needed and make adjustments as scope and requirements emerge.
I can hear all project managers on this forum choking on their coffee, but putting PM theory to one side, what would you do?
If we have to stick to only these options, I would go for option 3.
The above scenario does sound more like how programmes evolve (starting with just a vision & no fixed scope at the start).
Projects come into our PMO which are so nebulous that the scope is hard to define and agree with the Sponsor. For our projects, seldom is the scope 'locked down' at the start and refusing to start a project will end with you getting axed!
I do think it is key to get core elements of the scope agreed at the projects start and formally declare that any additions to the scope will need to go through change control.
To summarise, form a scope statement at the start of the project and make it clear that any changes from that point onwards will need to go through change control. I would also make it clear what is NOT included; in a bid to whittle out any requirements that the client thought they would get, actually but aren't due to.
I agree, option 3 is my preferred option. Of course getting a fully signed off scope is better, but I like to term this 'real world' project management. It doesn't always go by the book, particularly if you have very important or powerful people as your stakeholders.