Scope Definition the Jack Welch Way

Jack Welch is squishing your head

How many times have you been in a situation where you’re defining scope with your client who has a set budget and/or a set timeline but also a set “must-have” list that is impossible to deliver for the time and/or money? It sucks, but it happens all the time. That negotiation is always a delicate dance. So what’s one to do? Might I introduce the Jack Welch Way?

Jack Welch is the former Chairman and CEO of General Electric who touched off a firestorm with his theories on “differentiation” and specifically his suggestion that you cut the bottom 10% of your workforce. That is to say the 10% who is “underperforming” or not meeting your needs. It’s his idea of cultivating the strong and culling the weak. I think that’s a despicable way to manage human resources, but it’s a great way to get projects within scope!

Imagine a list of must-haves 20 items long. The client simply cannot trim this list so it’s up to you. Arrange them in a list in no particular order and then drop the last two, regardless of what they are. Once the client is done freaking out you simply explain that they can have those two items back but that means two other items need to drop off.

The client will not like this but you can help. Look at each feature and do effort/benefit analysis of each. Those that have the fewest benefits identified rank lower. The last two on the list then move into a Phase Two launch.

Decision making can be hard, especially when you had your heart on something that you just can’t have. If you have to break your client’s heart you might as well do it with the same ruthless, dispassionate way Jack Welch runs his businesses. And remember, Jack says:

Winning leaders invest where the payback is the highest. They cut their losses everywhere else.

True enough.

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