Wednesday, May 15, 2013


What is needed minimally to achieve the objective, is the maximum we're going to do. This is the  MIN=MAX-rule.

Projects tend to have some unnecessary and missing 'luggage'. The MIN = MAX-rule is ideal in determining the scope of projects. A good remedy for scope screep. And, it is also a good way to decide to included things while this was not obvious within the scope.

In 1998 I was involved in an ICT project that did not really wanted to succeed. There was a hard dead-line on the project, there had been issued a card-blanche and still the best-estimate was a 3 month overrun by the deadline of January 1, 1999.

This project was not unique. Later I encountered more of these types of projects. A lot needs to be done and there seems to be not enough time to do it all.

What is striking, the more important the project, the more scope screep seems to be a problem. Maybe it is because important major projects tend to get much easier all kinds of resources and budgets. In no time these project are full of all kinds of things that are not really needed.

Similarly with the project that was to be ready on January 1, 1999. There was even a millennium-proof component. And given the number of systems involved with a lot of legacy, a significant thing. Millenium-proof went out of scope so very quickly; together with some other stuff.

In another project with a hard-line dead ICT wanted to launch their new development platform as well. So that was quickly placed outside the scope of that project.

It is not necessary to bring the project to a successful conclusion then it will not be part of the scope!

However, the MIN = MAX-rule goes still a bit further. After all, it is about what is minimum necessary to achieve the objective.

Sometimes you need the cooperation or extra effort of someone or some group that is not exactly waiting  for your project. And when you cannot get around them then there is an alternative to pressure them via the top: applying the MIN = MAX-rule.

What does this person or group want very desperatly? So badly that when they get it they are more than willing to make sure your project comes to a successful conclusion. Imporatant projects can get extra budgets afterall. The minimum that is needed to achieve the target is the maximum we do ... and sometimes that's a little more than seconds for the project purpose is required.


The following questions come from the PFD + process and help to apply the MIN = MAX-rule in a pragmatic way:
[A] = objective to be realized, product to be delivered,decision to be taken, deliverable, etc
[B] = same as [A], but as a precondition for [A]

  1. To realize [A] we must have [B]?
  2. Without [B] we can't realize [A]?
  3. Are you sure?
  4. Optional: Why?  or: Who does/might know?
  1. To realize [A] we only must have [B]?
  2. We only need [B] to realize [A]?
  3. Are you sure?
  4. Optional: Why?  or: Who does/might know?

The #3 questions are aimed at triggering the unconscious. Ask questions # 1 and # 2 in a quiet monotonous tone; almost mantra-like. Ask question # 3 in a firm question. Wait, observe the nonverbal response and continue. If something is not right, then they come back to it.

Question # 4 is optional and in particular useful when the above questions are not used in a PFD + routine. This question works best when the tone is one of surprise. Wait, observe the nonverbal response and continue. If something is not right, then they come back out.

No guarantees, but you'll be surprised how much extra important and useful information you hear. Furthermore, the person questioned is usually equally amazed at how much they actually know ... or don't know.

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