One of the items that is brought up and has to be guarded against is scope creep. This is mainly related to continuous improvement items but can be any project or multi-faceted or multi-disciplined endeavor.

What I have found in my experience is that the creep is usually related to “finding savings” to justify the project or resources and thus making it too big to manage. I have seen events killed because the scope was not wide enough to encompass the dollar threshold of the project. I have rarely been involved with a team that expands an event to the point they can’t manage it. I have, on the other hand, been told by leadership or the champion or customer of the process to make the guards rails larger or deeper because their own tribal knowledge or bias has stated that the “real money” is over there but you still need to improve this process over here. Not fun and the team usually becomes discouraged and then the project dies a horrible death, alone and afraid.

I have had many positive experiences, though, with what I term Scope Shift and Scope Refinement. These concepts have served me well whether I have an ad hoc team on a plant floor or with a multi-site or multi-disciplined project that takes weeks to prepare. Let me go through these and let me know if it makes sense or I am just creating another meaningless distinction – not my intent.

Scope shift – This occurs usually in the Measure phase of a six sigma project or during the initial investigation of a countermeasure or simple root cause session. The idea here is to move the project to where the data and information leads you. This will move the guard rails or scope but should not widen it. This means that if you planned on focusing on A through D but initial investigation takes you to C through F, you perform due diligence to make sure you are not fooling yourself and set up the new parameters of the project. This means that you leave A and B alone. You do not kid yourself that you can manage it. At the Measure gate review report out the justification and risk assessment, get the green light and move on.

Scope Refinement – This situation comes up more often and should be obvious as well. This is when one looks at a complete process and one finds that the majority of the issues are in one or two areas. The refinement comes in at least 2 areas – What you are going to work on, and what measurements are critical. What to work on moves from 7 areas to 2. Pretty straight forward but one needs to do an analysis on inputs and outputs so that there is no confusion or if changes occur on another part of the process, it is recognized. The measurements that are now used for improvement should be reviewed and updated as well. This should encompass three (3) aspects – well developed linkage to the main metrics of the project, metrics that measure only those aspects that you are working on, and at least 2 or 3 metrics that will let the team know that they are adversely impacting other aspects of the process. This is usually found and presented during the analyze or improve phase of a six sigma project or the Determine Root Cause or Propose / Validate corrective action in an 8D process.

These subtle changes to scope help to ensure the team is doing the right work and that the action item list at the end is manageable and not a laundry list. Also, it limits the WTF factor at the end of the project when the client / champion, wonders where the project went.