“Why do the Project Charter and the Project Scope Statement contain some of the same information?”
“We just provided that information, isn’t this just repetitive? Are we wasting time?”
When you are creating some of your project management deliverables, you might feel like you are repeating yourself. You are. But you also are not. Confused? Let’s consider progressive elaboration.
As you start your project, you do not know what you do not know. You start off with some basic information. For example,
• The purpose of this project is to improve our customer experience by providing customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Because you know your organization and your industry, you might already have some strong ideas about what the above really means and how it will really be accomplished. It is also possible that your organization is looking to shake things up and do things differently. How do you know?
Ask questions of course! Question your project sponsor and your key stakeholders about their plans for customer service. Take the purpose statement that was used to create a business case or a project proposal and you elaborate on it. Perhaps as you are writing the charter you find out more:
• The purpose of this project is to improve our customer experience by providing customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to existing account holders only.
Now you know more, you have elaborated on your previous understanding. This is progressive elaboration at work. And this might be enough to write a Project Charter to announce the project and for the project to be granted a project manager and to be assigned a priority.
Next you and your team discuss the best way to provide customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
• You can hire extra customer service representatives and open up the phone lines to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
• You can set up a service where customers can text their questions and they receive a response also via text.
• You can set up an online customer service question forum where customers can post their questions and receive a response within an agreed turn around time.
• You can give customers access to a specific Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) area for after hours questions.
• You can assign each customer a customer service concierge with a specific hotline they can call or text or email 24/7
All of the above could meet the stated purpose of providing customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to existing account holders only. Which approach or approaches will you use?
With additional discussion with your sponsor and your stakeholders, you learn that they had absolutely no intention of providing a customer concierge service. They also do not like the idea of paying for extra customer service representatives. But they do not think that a text message-based service is good enough. After discussion, it becomes apparent that no matter what approach is used, human beings will be required to provide the service. In order to reduce the costs of adding staff or paying overtime to current staff, it is decided that the solution will involve a text message based solution, combined with a FAQ area and an online customer service question forum. The constraint you receive is that each shift will have no more than two representatives working.
Progressive elaboration has taken you from an initial idea or statement about providing customer service to a definition of who receives this extra level of customer service. Now you are defining how.
As you have progressed through the project you have elaborated on what you are really doing. Each formal deliverable that discusses the purpose of the project contains additional information. Once the scope statement is signed off, you expect fewer changes. Otherwise, you might find yourself contending with scope creep. An excellent discussion for another day.