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This Column Is Not in This Room!

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44A few years ago, I arrived at a hotel to teach a class.  The classroom space was reserved and ready for me to set up class.  The materials had arrived without being lost in shipment.  My travel arrangements and logistics went off without a hitch.  The hotel staff was helpful and courteous.  The facility was clean; everything seemed to be in good working order.  The hotel was even in short walking distance to great places to eat!

Basically, my checklist of items to not overlook was complete.  All of the indicators added up to forecast a great class experience.

However, there was something that was not on my checklist.  I had not ever considered putting it on my checklist before.  But I now had something huge with which to contend in my class.  Nowhere did it occur to our planners, or me, or the sales staff at the hotel during conversations about booking the training room, that a giant column in the middle of the room might be an issue!

Well, we worked around the column.  No other alternatives were immediately available.  However, during the retrospective of the class, the column became a lesson-learned.

As we perform the project management processes of Collect Requirements and Define Scope – to understand what will be delivered and how the team will create the deliverables – we should not rely on a simple definition of what the project scope is.  We also need to create some boundaries or exclusions and spend some time describing what the project scope is not.  By discussing what the project is not, we can change the perspective or approach of our customers to uncover some of the details that may later become “the elephant in the room,” just like the column in my classroom.

I now have a new item on my checklist:  A proper classroom venue should not have any obstructions, obstacles, or distractions that may inhibit the class delivery or the student’s learning.

I still marvel at the concept of putting such a column in the middle of a room.  Your project deliverables and scope may also involve concepts that are foreign to you until the unexpected stalls your project.  Try to eliminate the surprises and misunderstandings by defining what the project is not.

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