Friday, February 15, 2013

Defining a Project and Preventing Scope Creep

Developing a Common Understanding

During 2012, I was tasked with a project to implement blended learning using Blackboard© in all of my district’s Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classrooms.  In my mind, this sounded like a simple matter of showing the teachers how to add content to an online course.  The scope creep issues occurred in two separate categories as I began to analyze the project and develop the process for implementation. 

Scope Creep of Expectations

I had no idea how to plan a project of this size.  A month was spent meeting with my direct report, the executive director charged with completing this project.  The executive director had a vision, but did not have the means to articulate all the phases and details in our initial meeting.  Several meetings were needed to truly develop the scope of the project, and in-between each of these meetings I had to research and design documents to determine if my understanding matched the vision.  During each meeting we went over the documented process determined during the previous session and then the executive director would add or change the process.  This was a frustrating experience because I did not understand that this phase is a natural part of the project planning process (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008).  Although this was not technically scope creep in the traditional sense, it nevertheless created the same effect upon the expectations and plans for the project. 

Scope Creep of Project

Due to a lack of project management practice in my project, scope creep occurred in several areas and was difficult to prevent because there was no written documentation of the agreed upon project scope and project plan.  All I had was a process outlining how teachers would be trained to become blended teachers and the deadlines for completion.  Scope creep happened in the following ways:
·       The list of teachers changed continually throughout the project.  This meant that I was constantly adding new people for which I was responsible to train, but then others were dropped and I did not know they were no longer a member of the training group.
·       A principal in one of the schools wanted their entire school moved into blended learning.  This created an issue in that I was unable to support the extra numbers as effectively as the group that my direct report was held accountable for.
·       The project began as one for training but became one of technical support in the system as the additional teachers overloaded our miniature Blackboard© support staff.  There was not a clear method for handling technical issues.
In dealing with the issues, I learned some valuable strategies for damage control and prioritization.  However, from the study of project management I have learned better strategies to prevent these issues in future projects and found a great rap that synthesizes the practical experience I have gained.


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.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Project Management Gems


Active Collab®

is a site that I found a year ago for my department when we were exploring how to manage, document, and communicate the progress on the various projects within our diverse group.  As Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer state in their book on project management, “projects that are particularly complex, challenging, or uncertain are often first to minimize the importance of planning, monitoring, and controlling effort so the team can focus on the ‘real work’ of the project” (2008, p. 318).  Active Collab® is a terrific tool for quickly planning out projects via milestones, tasks, and tickets.  For an organization this is useful in that a project manager can assign tasks with due dates to certain members and those assignees can document progress, time spent on task, notes, and digital evidence of completion.  Along with the online site was an iPhone App that we used for mobile updates to our projects.  Although the product was stellar, the implementation was not planned thoroughly, leaving inconsistent management of the project documentation. We have since phased out this site in our work, but it was because of a need for the basics of project management rather than an issue with the program.


is a resource found while researching this week for assistance with planning, budgeting, and resource allocation.  Dr. Stolovich in a multimedia program entitled “Creating a Resource Allocation Plan” shared, that it is essential for the project manager to plan resources realistically and it can be difficult to know what different budget items are correct (Stolovich, n/d).  The Project Minds site breaks down the various components of project management and provides resources to help the novice at just the right place to be useful.  Additionally, I found even more information shared by those in the field on their resources page.  Throughout my current work, I have been implementing each step of the project management process with my spring project assignments and I often do not have my project management book at hand.  This site has provided “just in time” information accessible from a mobile device or my laptop.


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.