How to scope an Issue or Part of a Project

Many projects can become confused and muddled, especially those with urgent scopes, rapidly evolving definitions and little to no control. This adds easily avoidable costs, delays, and stress to the project itself and the project team. The following Position Statement methodology is a proven, structured method of controlling the workscope and coordinating the activities of both the internal team and wider stakeholders

Position Statement Mindmap

Objective of the Position Statement

In my experiences, many urgent and fast-track scopes are typified in long e-mail chains that are distributed to a wide audience in which key points and actions are unclear and buried in the text, and meetings are often too free-flowing with inadequate minutes taken.

The objective of the Position Statement is to provide clear project status that allows efficient and effective coordination of all stakeholders.

Initial Generation of the Position Statement

As the Project Engineer, it is incumbent on you to clarify and maintain the scope definition. Start by collating all the available information relating to the scope, such as e-mails, reports, meeting minutes, discussions with stakeholders, and so on.  Review the input information and generate a draft document of your understanding of the

  • Problem definition.
  • Scope requirements.
  • Schedule
  • Internal and external stakeholders
  • Next steps and actions.

Armed with this first draft, you will then review it with your internal project team. Figure 10.1 shows the iterative process of generation and update.

Position Statement Process
Position Statement Process

1st Draft Review

You now have an internal baseline document that you can review with the entire internal team, which will provide additional information and clarifications. At the end of this review, your internal team should have achieved consensus on the issues, scope definition, and next actions. The next step is to widen out the consensus of the project team to the external stakeholders.

2nd Draft Review

This step involves reviewing the position statement and scope with external stakeholders, who might include client, subcontractors, and certifying authorities. At the end of this review, you should have gained accurate information on the issue and the proposed scope in a concise format. During face-to-face meetings or conference calls, walk the external stakeholders through the position statement to obtain their input and clarification. At the end of this stage, all the external and internal stakeholders should be on the same page regarding project scope and next actions.

Tip: Remember the team and stakeholders are busy people who do not have time to wade through long e-mail chains and potentially misinterpreted requirements.

Final Document

Further iteration

The position statement should have a date and revision at each issue. For ease and speed of assimilation, I suggest that changes from the previous versions are highlighted in a different colour.

On very urgent and fast-moving scopes, it would not be unreasonable to update the position statement daily, reducing frequency as the scope definition settles down

Benefits of a position statement

I have been using the position statement methodology for years and have coached many Project Engineers on its uses as an effective and time-saving tool. The position statement:

  • Provides a clear unambiguous scope baseline at a point in time.
  • Can be used as the basis of a more detailed scope document.
  • Can be used as the basis for formal change control.
  • Can be revised as scope changes.
  • Assists in managing challenging clients.

Duration to complete position statement

The preparation of a position statement is an investment that will save time and reduce potential confusion, especially from those further from the centre. Typically, once input information has been reviewed, the position statement can be completed within an hour. As Project Engineer, you must perform the information review legwork for the entire team.

Typical sections

Typical sections of a position statement are shown below, although I recommend you modify them to suit your particular scope:

  • Background on the issue.
  • Work completed to-date.
  • Identified solutions.
  • Issues requiring further discussion.
  • Single point contacts.
  • Next steps.

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Position Statement Summary

Using a position statement brings all the stakeholders to the same place. It is relatively quick and easy to do, and it reduces stress on the organisation as a whole. Try it with your next scope!

“Sometimes when co-ordinating stakeholders, it feels like you are trying to herd cats.”

For further information on Position Statements and Work Statements please utilise the vast resources at the Project Management Institute