Published here November 2012


Musings Index

Is Max's Scope-Pak Project Planning Serious?

Al Johnson asks by Email 9/5/12:
"Is your SCOPE-PAK project planning approach serious?"

"Mr. Wideman,

I don't have credentials to match those outlined in your personal history. With that said, I read through "Scope-Pak Project Planning - in Eight Simple Steps" and thought it was written by someone who was joking, who was using parody to get across some point about project management, or who did not have practical experience in project management. But you don't appear to fall into one of these categories.

I wish I could observe you going through your "Eight Simple Steps" in 60 minutes with any of the stakeholders with whom I have ever dealt. I've been in "Information Technology" as a programmer, business analyst, programming manager, project leader, project manager and applications manager during the past 40+ years and I've been on all sides of a project - user, developer, leader. I may not have done things the "text book" way, but I've accomplished satisfactory results within the structure and environment in which I had to operate and still wish to remain employed.

I believe the facilitator directing these "Eight Simple Steps" needs to have buy-in from the stakeholders to be successful, and continually cutting them off during discussions to get through the proposed agenda in 60 minutes seems to be antithetical to gaining that cooperation. Please understand that I don't intend this to be mean spirited. I just would like to know how you can get cooperation from people when you do not let them speak what's on their mind. Apparently you can do this and I need to learn it.

Also, PMI indicates that the sponsor is the key stakeholder, and that complete cooperation and buy-in from the sponsor is integral to the success of your project. How can that happen when you present him/her with a document that was created in a 60-minute meeting in which he/she was probably not even present?

I mean no disrespect, but I need to understand more about the success of this method of project planning. It is an interesting thought, but one I feel is impractical.

Al Johnsen, PMP"

To which I replied:

Dear Al,

Thank you for your observations. Absolutely no offense taken. Well, I am sorry to disappoint you, but here is the reality of the situation (well as I see it!) Responding point by point:

  1. My SCOPE-PAK approach is serious.
  2. It is not intended for experienced project managers with experienced teams on what I would describe as "serious" projects, i.e. those of significant duration and some complexity.
  3. It is intended for those new to project management with little or no background and who are desperate to get started on some new project assignment.
  4. I have also used it extensively over several decades as a class exercise - "learning by doing".
  5. I assure you that a small project, say lasting a few to several months, can be mapped out in a preliminary way in 60 minutes. Actually, I usually allow 45 minutes with a little bit of leeway. If I have teams working in competition this target can generally be achieved with impressive results (i.e. the key issues all being identified.)
  6. If the teams really do have no prior experienced, I do brief them to the extent of first appointing from among themselves, a project leader, a timekeeper, a recorder and someone to watch for "quality control" (i.e. keep people on message and cut the chatter.)
  7. If the team members do have PM experience (such as in a PMI chapter meeting) I omit the briefing and delight in seeing them fail to action item 6 above - and likely fail to complete the assignment.
  8. By all means include the project's sponsor in the exercise. They, too, have to learn.

I last applied this exercise/approach for a group of 9 youngsters who had undertaken to put on a public show to raise money for a not-for-profit organization locally. I split them into two teams.

The results from the two teams did develop along somewhat dissimilar lines, perhaps because one team included the sponsor who had some preconceived ideas. But the two outcomes together gave the group a head start that they figured would easily have taken up half the time between now and the show's deadline date.

Project management is a wonderful thing - but you have to do it right!

Hope that helps,

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