This paper was originally presented in 1987 at the PMI Northwest Regional Symposium, Portland, Oregon. It is copyright to Walter Wawruck© 1987-2006.
Published here October 2006.

Editor's Note | Introduction and Purpose of this Paper | The Definition of Project Scope
The Comprehensive Description of a Project | Work Done by the Project Management Institute
 Scope Management - Important But Neglected | PART 2

Work Done by the Project Management Institute

Scope management for projects is one of the six areas in the common body of knowledge on which candidates are examined for certification as Project Management Professionals. In the work by the Project Management Institute ("PMI") to define the Project Management Body of Knowledge ("PMBOK"), several definitions of project scope have been offered. In the discussion below, the PMBOK definitions are compared to the definition proposed in this paper.

In the special report of PMI's Ethics, Standards and Accreditation Committee, scope management is defined as the process of controlling the scope of the project in terms of the aims, goals, and objectives of the sponsor. However, "scope of the project" is left undefined in the section of the report dealing with scope management.[18] The glossary of terms in the section of the report dealing with cost management does offer a definition of project scope as "to define (sic) in general the product to be manufactured, purchased, or constructed". The sub topics under this definition suggest there should be a client approval of the scope statement. In this statement, the scope is suitably broken down into work packages, and an engineering report clarifies the project at the detailed level.[19],[20]

Taken as a whole, the concept of project scope that emerges from the 1983 ESA report is in substantial agreement with the definition proposed here. It focuses on the client's approved objectives for the product to be created through the project. Subsequent committee work on the PMBOK is reported in the August 1986 Project Management Journal. Woolshlager, on behalf of the committee on scope management, defines the scope of a project (or project component) as the work content of the project; the scope can be fully described by naming all activities performed, the end products that result, and the resources consumed.[21] Save for some evident typographic errors, Woolshlager's definition is identical with that proposed by Wideman in his general glossary of terms in the same issue.[22],[23] In the scope management committee report, Woolshlager equates the process of project definition with subdividing the work into manageable segments.[24] He includes cost, schedule, and interfaces, along with "performance/quality", as parameters of the project definition. Cost and schedule appear again as status indicators under the heading scope reporting.[25]

The concept of project scope that emerges from the 1986 report on PMBOK work is unsatisfactory for management purposes. It is too broad, both because it incorporates the cost and schedule objectives and because it combines the planned work (means or methods) with the specification of required products (ends or goals).

The scope objective of a project is a distinct and separately verifiable measure of project performance. Lumping it together with the cost and schedule measures tends to obscure the need for developing strategies, methods, and controls aimed at ensuring success on this dimension. The failure to make the distinction may lead to the incorrect perception that managing the scope is the same as managing the cost plus managing the schedule, or perhaps is the same as monitoring against an integrated cost-schedule baseline that reflects the work plan or strategy. This is the error that Woolshlager's committee has fallen into.

Scope is an objective for a project, and should be specified in terms of the results to be achieved. It is wrong to include in the specification the means chosen to achieve the desired end. The confusion of ends and means appears to be a common failing among project management practitioners. Spirer reports that in case exercises during educational sessions on project management, more than 85 percent of the participants produced objectives statements that were seriously deficient. The prominent faults were:

  • Stating activities rather than end items
  • Exceeding the scope
  • Failing to be specific, and
  • Omitting important deliverables.
He has found that when objectives are expressed as deliverable items, the objectives are better.[26]

Martin and McCormick echo Spirer's advice. When formulating a set of specific goals that will ensure the accomplishment of the overall objective of a project, they recommend that each of the goals should be stated in terms of the desired end result or condition. This serves to ensure that the focus is on results, not activities.[27] The tendency to equate scope with work effort or activities may be due in part to common expressions used in project management practice: such as "scope of work," "scope of services," and "scoping a job." The latter term means calculating work quantities from a statement of required results or from a design. The writer argues the use of the term "scope," in reference to projects, should be restricted to mean only the required outputs and their characteristics.

The Comprehensive Description of a Project  The Comprehensive Description of a Project

18. Woolshlager, L.C. Scope Management. Project Management Quarterly Special Report August 1983, Drexel Hill, PA: The Project Management Institute, p31
19. Ibid, p18
20. The conclusions of the ESA committees are presented using tree structure charts to portray relationships among topics or key words. In the sections on cost and scope management, the glossaries defining the key words are, in some instances, somewhat obscure. In the case cited here, the committee likely did not intend "project scope" to be a verb, as its definition implies. This description of the subtopics the committee listed under the heading "project scope" paraphrases the original text. It is the writer's attempt to give a coherent meaning to the committee's definitions.
21. Woolshlager, L.C. Scope Management. Project Management Journal August 1986, XVII, pp3, 37
22. Wideman, R.M. The PMBOK Report. PMI Body of Knowledge Standards. Project Management Journal August 1986, XVII, p23
23. Woolshlager cites Stuckenbruck as the source for this definition, but does not offer a page number. The writer has been unable to locate any similar definition in Stuckenbruck. In fact, there is no reference either to project scope or to technical performance in Stuckenbruck's table of contents, index, or paragraph headings. Likely, Woolshlager obtained his definition from Wideman and attributed it to Stuckenbruck by mistake. The writer in the course of a consulting engagement in February 1978 provided Wideman with his definition. It is ironic that the writer is now arguing against his own earlier definition.
24. Woolshlager, L.C. Scope Management. Project Management Journal August 1986, XVII, pp3, 37
25. Ibid, pp39-41
26. Spirer, H.F. The Basic Analytical Principles of Project Management. Project Management Journal. December 1984, XV, 4, pp77-78
27. Martin, D.M., and McCormick, M.B. Improving Project Planning Productivity. Proceedings of the 1983 Seminar/Symposium Drexel Hill, PA: The Project Management Institute, 1983, pIII E 2
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