Define your scope.

Just after I had graduated university, I was in a meeting at work and someone mentioned the word scope with regards to what we were planning to do. I stopped for a moment, and wondering exactly what this person actually meant. My internal monologue was one of embarrassed curiosity..”What does he mean, scope? I’ve never really understood that term. I should know this. What does he mean?”.

Since then, I have a much better understanding of scope, and reckon it is the single most important factor that defines those projects that go well, and those that do not.

If you have scope, you should be able to clearly define the one core thing your project, or new business, is making happen. It’s the essence of your idea, and the clarifying reason for your actions.

When you’re beginning a new project, or when getting the team together, your first task is to think about what you’re going to do. This is normally accompanied by grandiouse ideals about saving the planet, creating the latest and greatest in web technology or perhaps just beginning world domination. Forget it. That won’t help.

Instead, your first task should be to figure out the one core thing you will do. And, once you have that on paper, list the things you WON’T do. That is the key to scope. Mick Liubinskas, from Pollenizer, recently ran a focus workshop in Melbourne where he goes into more detail about being focused and defining scope. Check out his slides here, it’s a great resource. .Some examples of scope?

1) Trampoline doesn’t serve lunch.

At Trampoline, we don’t provide lunch. Why? It’s not that we don’t want people to eat – it’s purely a fact that organising and creating infrastructure around catering to 150 people, all with differing diets, is THE nightmare of organising an event. It would double the effort involved in organising Trampoline, and it’s actually not a core requirement.

So…we just ask people to provide their own lunch. Some bring it. Others buy it. But more excitingly, as occurred at Trampoline 2 and 3, some people organised to cook and bring their own vegitarian cook-up.

2) The Flip camcorder does one thing. Video.

The Flip is brilliant because of its scope. The Flip only has one, big red, record button. Once you’ve finished recording something, it has a USB stick that flips out (hence the name) to download your film quickly to your computer, in a web-friendly file format. Consider how hard it is to actually do that core action with most other digital cameras. I always manage to lose the cord you need to use to get your video onto your computer. And once I do get it downloaded, it’s always in a file format that my computer can read. Flip simplified that core offering, and did it really well. The results? This Wired artcile says Flip has captured 13% of the camcorder market. .

When you’re next thinking about making something happen, or fear that you’re forcing something, think first about your scope. What won’t you do? What is the one thing you will focus on making happen, above everything else? Once you have that and you start down the path of just making that happen, you’ll be happy regardless of what happens.

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