Note: This article is updated at Cuttable Scope.
Early on in my Program Management career, I ran into challenges around cutting scope.
The schedule said the project was done by next week, but scope said the project would be done a few months from now.
On the Microsoft patterns & practices team, we optimized around “fix time, flex scope.” This ensured we were on time, on budget. This helped constrain risk. Plus, as soon as you start chasing scope, you become a victim of scope creep, and create a runaway train. It’s better to get smart people shipping on a cadence, and focus on creating incremental value. If the trains leave the station on time, then if you miss a train, you know you can count on the next train. Plus, this builds a reputation for shipping and execution excellence.
And so I would have to cut scope, and feel the pains of impact ripple across multiple dependencies.
Without a simple chunking mechanism, it was a game of trying to cut features and trying to figure out which requirements could be completed and still be useful within a given time frame.
This is where User Stories and System Stories helped.
Stories created a simple way to chunk up value. Stories help us put requirements into a context and a testable outcome, share what good looks like, and estimate our work. So paring stories down is fine, and a good thing, as long as we can still achieve those basic goals.
Stories help us create Cuttable Scope.
They make it easier to deliver value in incremental chunks.
A healthy project start includes a baseline set of stories that help define a Minimum Credible Release, and additional stories that would add additional, incremental value.
It helps create a lot of confidence in your project when there is a clear vision for what your solution will do, along with a healthy path of execution that includes a baseline release, along with a healthy pipeline of additional value, chunked up in the form of user stories that your stakeholders and user community can relate to.