Goldilocks Scope

Everything has an amount that is “just right”. It’s often called the Goldilocks principle.

Example: These planets either have too much greenhouse effect or too little to be able to sustain life as we know it. The differences between the three planets have been termed the “Goldilocks Principle” (Venus is too hot, Mars is too cold, but Earth is just right).

See illustration.


So what happens when the scope of your project is too big or too small?

Too Small
When the scope is too small, the team feels uninspired. They don’t try too hard. It feels easy. What I notice is that they don’t add in extra goodies to fill the space. They add in meetings instead. They argue of stuff that doesn’t matter. They make the project seem bigger, but not by adding love. They add time wasting. I’ve seen it over and over. Too little to do is just as bad as too much.

Too Big
This is a problem I am all too familiar with. When you are overloaded with so much work that you can’t even wrap your head around it, you end up disengaging. You work LESS hard. You start to procrastinate. Groups stop communicating and get frustrated with each other. Everyone’s patience wears thin and confrontation and finger pointing is rampant.

When the scope is too big, people start to cut corners. They cut quality and testing and UX. They cut user love. Trying to do too much is a disease that affects many organizations. It creates problems at all levels.

Goldilocks – Just Right
The right amount of scope is not easy to accomplish, but you can see a way. Here is a metaphor…

I’m sitting under a benchpress. I lift the bar and it weighs nothing. I am not going to bother with any reps. Then someone puts on 500 lbs. I can’t budge the bar. I won’t even try, I will hurt myself.  However, if you put an amount on that is hard to push, but I can do it. I will try for as many reps as I can muster. It’s the right amount.

The right amount of scope in a technology project is hard to conceive. It will take cunning and hard work, but it looks possible. This inspires people to lean in. This inspires people to communicate and work like a team.

When a project gets too big, the solution is simple. Break it in half and look at it again. It’s not complicated. The worst scenario is when you have a project that should be broken in half, but the powers that be refuse to shorten the scope. Then you end up with the “too much” scenario.

How big are your project/missions? Too small? Too big? Just right?


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