So I’m doing some PMP sample test questions today and ran into one where at the end, additional things were added and the customer is very happy. According to the answer, this project was unsuccessful because the additional features were “gold plating” which wastes time and probably cost. Primarily, I got this wrong because I read “the project has added [this and that]” as the [this and that] = intended product of the project.
But there’s a deeper insight here.
Gold plating. What is it? To me, it’s when you add features or functionality without going through the change process. It’s unapproved scope creep….usually created by the project team themselves when it comes to the term “gold plating”.
Why does gold plating happen? Here is a theory.
- A project team member comes up with an idea that will clearly add value
- The thought of elevating it to the project manager, sponsor, or customer and going through the change management process is too painful to comprehend
- This kind of thing is usually thought of as scope creep, and therefore it is bad
- It usually never occurs to the team member that this is a “risk”
- If it did occur to them, the word “risk” attached to it would give it a snowball’s chance – even more painful to bring with the project manager
- so the team member finds a way to “squeeze it in”
- This may mean that other tasks don’t get as much attention as they deserved
In the above scenario, there’s no checks and balances on what adds value or not. So what gets gold plated? Usually only things the team member finds “cool” and enjoys working on. To them, it adds value. Does it add value to the project? No one knows in this underground way of doing it. What if the team member decides to just forget about it? No scope creep, no gold plating. That’s good right?
Wrong! If the team member just forgets about it, the project just lost information about a potentially valuable opportunity.
We need Opportunity Management
In the PMBoK guide, opportunities on a project are dealt with as positive risks within the risk management knowledge area. I believe this is the wrong approach.
- In practice, when people hear the word “risk” they immediately think negative
- expertise and processes that need to come into play with opportunities versus risks can be very different, although there is definitely overlap with risk management also
- A whole range of communication and practices dealing with the rest of the business come into play when you are looking for opportunities
- Tools and techniques around quantifying the ROI of a potential opportunity and then seeking additional funding for it come into play
- Lessons learned documentation specifically geared towards discovered opportunities
- Increased focus and transparency in the process of discovering, evaluating, and executing on opportunities all stakeholders identify while planning, executing, and closing a project.
I mentioned this to Greg Balestrero, CEO of PMI when the New Media Council met with him recently in Denver, CO. He was discussing the need to make positive environmental and social impacts through project management, and I responded with this point. I’m not sure what he thought of the idea, or if that’s even a concern of his. I’m sticking to my guns so far in the call to add Opportunity Management as a new knowledge area in the PMBoK. Maybe it will make the 5th edition.
Think about your own project(s), current or in the past.
- Did you or someone else come up with an idea that would have added a lot of value for the customer or business?
- Did it get shut down or never communicated because it would have resulted in a change to the project scope?
- Do people thus have a fear of speaking up about opportunities they think of while executing projects?
Leave a comment and let’s have a good discussion!