Will you add a tomato to your payload? Managing scope creep.

Scope cut is a feature. Before accepting a change request, ask these two questions.

Will you add a tomato to your payload?

Saturn V had a payload of 140,000 kgs. A medium tomato weighs 120 gms. By weight, it is .000086% of the payload. It may appear that this will not have too much effect on the payload, but will you add a tomato to the payload?

The problem with the software project is that it is hard to find such tomatoes. Many of these are gold plating, which adds enhancements that the customer did not ask for.

“Scope cut is a feature.”

Does this mean that you should neither negotiate on the scope, nor accept changes, or follow a plan?

Are you going against the agile values?

Two of the agile values are customer collaboration over contract negotiation and responding to change over following a plan. How does this apply to scope? To understand this, you should find the source of the tomatoes.

Who is asking you to add a tomato to the payload?

Is it the customer, or a representative of the customer? The problem is that we do not have a single customer anymore. The change requests may come from the product team, a small UX alteration, or many other sources, as shown in the Figure below.

Scope change can come from different sources
Often, customer value may not come from a customer, and may not even be a value. These are tomatoes.

It is always better to argue and understand if it is a customer value or a tomato.

Two questions to manage scope:

1. Are you adding tomato to the payload?

Before you start the development, it is essential to check with the customer if the change is required. It is crucial even after shipping.

It is always better to remove the noise before it enters the signal. So, it is better to create the habit of asking if the change is a tomato. If you find that the change is not a tomato, then check if you need it right now.

2. Do you need to add it right now?

You can try the well-known Eisenhower decision matrix.

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important. — Eisenhower

If the scope change appears to be in the important-urgent quadrant, prioritize. If you realize the change is more important than the planned work, then use one in, one out.

These two questions are like floodgates.

Concluding thoughts

Scope change is not bad, as long as you manage it. You should know if it is a signal and not noise. Once you know it is signal, prioritize. Treat everything that you ship as an add-on to the payload. These two questions can act as floodgates and can help you manage the scope.

  1. Are you adding tomato to the payload?
  2. Do you need to add it right now?
“Respond to change, don’t allow it to creep.”

More by Ranganathan Balashanmugam

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