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Myth #2: Putting Everything Into The Project Now Is Our Only Chance For Success – Part #2 (Lesson 6)


‘Have we captured everything?’

Even as it is being planned, the project already has scoping challenges at a number of levels. Unfortunately, the team has not yet realised it.

  • At the macro level, the project initiation team has mistakenly bundled a broad scope of requirements into the project. And they have set few, if any, constraints or limitations to control that scope.
  • At the micro level, they are busy bundling lots of detailed requirements into the mix, happy that they are doing a great job of uncovering ‘all’ the requirements.

The stakeholders from the business, including the project sponsor (who probably worked at the business case/investment justification level) are typically not project delivery specialists. This does not mean they can avoid having to sign off reams of user requirements documentation under threat that, ‘If you do not sign them off soon, we will not have time to build your new system before the deadline!’

Of course, the stakeholders do not know for certain that what was captured will meet their needs. And they certainly do not want to be held accountable.

So further delays to actually starting the project’s build phase are likely to occur, as further detailed requirements are added to the ever-growing user requirements list. This continues until it reaches a tipping point where the stakeholders feel they have done as much as they can and succumb to the bullying, forward-pushing project team.

At this point, everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. Through a coordinated and concerted effort by the whole team, they have finally managed to incorporate ‘everything, including the kitchen sink’ into the scope of the build phase!

Stop the presses!

You have just witnessed the creation of a fully prepared ‘mise-en-scène’ for the project’s very own slow-motion disaster movie. And it has an all-too-predictable ending.

The entire team is guilty of just one thing – striving for perfection. That is a futile exercise, because:

Perfectionism leads to paralysis…

  • …which leads to decisions not being made…
  • …which leads to things not getting done…
  • …which leads to not meeting customer needs.

When taken to its extreme, perfectionism can be a form of neurosis. It can also be a proxy for various fears, such as:

  • Fear of making decisions.
  • Fear that this is the one chance to get the system right.
  • Fear of the system not being able to do everything.
  • Fear that the system will do things wrong.
  • Fear of being accountable for missing something important.
  • Fear of starting, finishing, or failing projects.
  • Fear of not being able to make changes to the system once it is live.
  • Fear of being blamed for incurring additional costs once the system is live.

However, the project world does not reward perfectionists. Instead, it rewards people who can get things done successfully. Every time. With Guaranteed Project OutcomesTM.

For clarity, I am not advocating that projects deliver poorly crafted systems. They need to deliver accurate results every time.

But ‘perfect’ in this context refers to the mindset that a system must do ‘everything’ in order to be complete.