Thursday, December 5, 2013

Analyzing Scope Creep

Scope creep occurs in a project when the client or project team members attempt to change the scope or output of the project at some point during the project’s life cycle (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008). These changes in scope have the potential for negatively impacting the project’s schedule, budget, or final product. A project manager may choose to respond to scope creep by taking an approach of going back to the original statement of scope documents and simply saying “no” to the change in scope (Laureate, 2010). Saying no to a project change in scope is not always appropriate (Portny, et al., 2008). Knowing how and when it is appropriate to say “no” to scope creep is key as scope changes in a project often times may be inevitable due to various demands of the client or out of necessity for meeting other requirements or issues that occur during the lifecycle of the project.

The project background…
While working at a non-profit vocational rehabilitation organization I was given the opportunity to work on a project for developing a job skills course. My role in this project was to develop and design the curriculum along with eventually facilitating the course upon completion of the course design. The other individual involved in the project functioned as the project manager and was the quality assurance and supported employment program manager. The project was approached very informally with very little documentation. The planning phase of the project consisted of an initial meeting between the project manager, our organization’s executive director, and me. During the meeting we identified the scope of the project which entailed the development of a job skills assessment and skill development course that would be facilitated to the consumers served by our organization and taking place once a week for a period of four weeks on an ongoing basis. The content of the course needed to include assessment of current skills and career interests as well as components that addressed job skill development and job readiness.

Scope creep…
The project was progressing smoothly with bi weekly meetings between myself and the project manager. During the design phase of the course however we were notified that the organization would be going through an accreditation process with Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) International. CARF is an accreditation agency that provides accreditation services to health and human service providers to ensure the providers are effectively meeting quality standards (CARF International, n.d.) As a result, our stakeholder, the organization’s executive director requested that the scope of the project be changed to include content that she felt would be important for showcasing the organization’s approach for providing additional high quality services to the consumers we were serving. The executive director requested that the course content address additional topics of resume writing and effectively filling out job applications, dressing for success and effective interview skills, and skills in maintaining employment. The course still needed to be completed by the original deadline to ensure it was in the process of being facilitated when CARF International arrived for accreditation. The original intentions of the project manager and myself were to eventually create courses that addressed these other proposed topics following the completion of the original proposed project and not within the short time period we were given. Because this was a situation where saying “no” was not an option it ultimately resulted in me needing to spend additional hours designing and developing content to address these other areas. Ultimately the final product was delivered on time, but over budget due to loss of productivity in me not being able to perform other daily essential job functions that needed to be delegated to a part time employee thereby paying them for additional hours. Additionally, the project was not completed to the standards in which I would have liked and resulted in the need for redesigning portions of the course following the initial implemented that was completed during accreditation.

If I were project manager in this scenario…
Scope creep or a change in project scope does not always end in negatively impacting the project. When approached correctly, a scope change can be effectively controlled and managed to minimize the potential negative impact on a project by going through a formal process called a change control system (Portny, et al., 2008). In the project scenario that I described, the project scope creep could have been managed more effectively had the project manager followed a different approach. Looking back on the project, if I had been the project manager I would have done more during the planning phases of the project to clearly define the scope with the stakeholder and obtained a more formal approval of the scope and timeline. By doing so this would provide an original scope document to refer to when the stakeholder brought forward the need for changing the scope of the project. Having documentation and following a more formal process for the scope change would allow me to approach the situation more effectively without going into panic mode trying to figure out how address the change within the originally defined schedule and budget (Greer, 2010). Following the formal process would also give me the opportunity to analyze the impact of the change on the project including the quality, the costs, and the timeline and to discuss the impact with the other individuals working on the team and consider alternatives (Greer, 2010). This would then allow me to discuss the impact with the stakeholder and recommend possible alternatives such as allowing additional personnel to work on the course development or presenting prototypes for accreditation for the latter proposed topics allowing for further development at a later time with better quality. Additionally, it would make them fully aware of how the change will impact other aspects of the project so that they could make the determination of whether or not they want to proceed with the change based on the impact (Greer, 2010).

CARF International. (n.d.). About CARF. Retrieved from
Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010a). Practitioner voices: Overcoming “scope creep” [Video webcast] [with Dr. Van Rekom, Troy Achong, & Vince Budrovich]  Retrieved from
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Scope Creep [Online image] Retrieved December 5, 2013 from

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Helpful PM Website for Cost Estimating and Resource Allocation

“Project management is a science and discipline that accounts for the planning, scheduling, and controlling of variables, parameters, and activities that must be performed in order to achieved a project’s objectives in a timely and financially-responsible manner” (Allen & Hardin, 2008, p. 76). For the novice project manager, estimating costs and allocating resources may appear to be a daunting endeavor given lack of knowledge and experience in these tasks. As a novice in these tasks myself I can attest to the trepidation that the words cost estimation, budget, and Gantt Chart initially struck in me as I approached my schedule and resource allocation plan for our course project. Happily however there are a plethora of additional resources and tools available on the web that a novice project manager such as myself can rely on for support and guidance in successfully approaching the cost estimating, project budgets, schedules, and resource allocation plans. The following are a few sites that I found to be particularly helpful in providing additional guidance.

Bright Hub PM
Bright Hub PM is a website offering a multitude of articles addressing a wide array of topics related to project management. The website features the ability to search for articles by topic making it a quick and easy resource for gaining additional knowledge on topics that cover resource allocation and project budgets. The articles are written by experienced project managers and offer tips useful to both the novice project manager approaching their first attempt at estimating a budget and the experienced project manager seeking additional insights on how to effectively improve their skills in cost estimation and allocating resources for a project. The website also features templates and forms which are helpful for providing a starting point and guidance on planning for resource allocation and a project budget.

Microsoft Project Support
Microsoft offers a support section of their website that goes beyond simply providing technical support to users of Microsoft Office software programs. The Microsoft Project Support section of the site allows users to search for various articles that address topics related to project management. This particular site is useful to those utilizing Microsoft Project either for the first time or for those who have used it before. The articles provide general guidance and tips on effectively estimating project costs and allocating resources, but more importantly for those using Microsoft Project there are articles with tips that relate to the use of the software program allowing the users to gain a better understanding of how benefit from the different functionality options of this project management software program in order to successful create a project schedule, budget, and resource plan.

Project Smart
Project Smart is website with helpful articles addressing project management topics for both novice and experienced project managers. The site also features a methods and tools section that includes step-by-step guidance to effectively plan and manage a project as well as helpful information on what tools and techniques are useful project management and how to use said tools. There is a glossary section which helps define terminology used in project management which is particularly useful for the novice project manager who may be unfamiliar with terms associated with project budgets and schedules. The site also offers a forum that can be utilized for discussing topics or questions with other project managers.

Allen, S., & Hardin, P. C. (2008). Developing instructional technology products using effective project management practices. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 19(2), 72–97.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Communicating Effectively

“The key to successful project management is effective communication” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008). Project managers must have an understanding of the best approaches for communicating with their project teams and stakeholders at the appropriate times and the most appropriate modality for communicating (Portny, et al., 2008). To gain additional insight on how messages are conveyed in different modes of communication, we were asked to examine a message communicated via email, voicemail, and face-to-face. The same words are used in each modality however the effectiveness of different aspects of the message varies in each.

The first modality used to deliver the message was via email. In the message the writer, Jane expresses consideration initially for Mark, the recipient’s busy schedule by explaining that she understands he has been busy and may not have been able to get a necessary report to Jane as a result of being in a meeting (Laureate, n.d.). Written communication should begin with identifying a clear purpose followed by an explanation of the issues, and it should include suggestions for potential solutions (Laureate, 2010). The email Jane has sent to Mark communicates a clear purpose from the beginning by expressing a need for an estimated time on a missing report that Mark is responsible for. Importance of this report and data is expressed by explaining the impact of the situation (Portny, et al., 2008). Jane explains that not having the report is creating an issue for her to move forward with her portion of the project (Laureate, n.d.). Jane also communicates a possible solution that she needs with either having the report sent back to her or the data she needs via email.

The second modality used was voicemail. Just as in the email message, Jane expresses initial consideration for Mark’s busy schedule followed by communicating the same words only this time in audio by leaving Mark a voicemail message. Communication and the message that is received are impacted by aspects other than just the words that are used (Laureate, 2010). Using voicemail to communicate a message in this scenario provides an opportunity for Jane to establish a greater sense of important through tone she uses (Laureate, 2010). The inflection Jane uses in her voice conveys a message of concern over not being able to meet her deadline (Laureate, n.d.). Unfortunately however the tone that Jane uses in the voicemail could also be misinterpreted by Mark as there is a sense exasperation and frustration in Jane’s voice with not receiving the report from Mark. Additionally the voicemail does not communicate who is delivering the message to Mark as Jane never states her name. Mark may be working on several projects and he could potentially be confused over who is contacting him and what specific report or data is needed.

The third modality that was used to communicate the message was via face-to-face. Just as in the voicemail and in the email, the same words are once again used. The change however is that Jane communicates a message through her body language (Laureate, 2010). The facial expressions and body language that Jane uses when communicating to Mark established shows concern in getting the report or data to her in order to meet her deadline (Laureate, n.d.). The also is an opportunity to create an interchange in which Mark and Jane can discuss the issue together to come to a resolution in getting the reports to Jane.  

Communicating Effectively as a Team
Communicating via telephone can be effective when you want someone to hear your particular tone of voice to communicate a message. Leaving a voicemail however does not allow for the person delivering the message to know whether or not the person received or whether or not they clearly understood the message. Selecting a voicemail for communicating with a project team member needs to be clear and concise. In the scenario presented to us this week, it would have been more beneficial for Jane to request that Mark promptly call her regarding the reports so that further clarification could be provided in addition to communicating a sense of urgency in the tone of her voice.

If the need arises to communicate an urgent message while working on a project, it would be better served by using written or face-to-face methods. Communicating through writing should be used when the message can be conveyed without the need for body language and setting a tone through inflection in one’s voice. The challenge of communicating in writing is that there is a risk of information being misinterpreted if the information is not presented (Portny, et al., 2008). Additionally, by communicating this message in an email, Jane is not able to verify when Mark has received and read the email and whether or not he understood what she was requesting (Portny, et al., 2008). When choosing to communicate a message such as this via email it would be important to require a read receipt so that it is known when the recipient has read the email. If requesting to obtain data or a report such in this scenario, it would also be beneficial to state more clearly what specific report or data is needed and a specific timeline in which it is needed by.  Choosing to communicate face-to-face would require appropriate timing and understanding of the personality in which one is attempting to convey a message to (Laureate, 2010). Having an understanding of the individual’s personality and schedule would be beneficial in knowing how to best approach them and what tone and body language needs to be used to convey a message of importance. If the message is urgent, conveying the message face-to-face provide an opportunity for individuals to clarify their understanding of the issue and come to a resolution together.

“A project team is a collection of people who are committed to common goals and who depend on one another to do their jobs” (Portny, et al., 2008). Project managers and project team members must establish guidelines for communicating effectively with one another in order to accomplish successful outcomes. Different situations may arise during a project necessitating communicating through different modalities. In the scenario presented to us this week, one project team member is attempting to hold another accountable for completing their portion of a project. The modalities of communication presented in the scenario we reviewed highlights the importance of selecting the most appropriate approach for communication based on what the message is that needs to be conveyed.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Communicating with stakeholders. [Video webcast] [with Dr. Harold Stolovitch]  Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). The art of effective communication. [Multimedia program]  Retrieved from

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.