Sing it to the Lego Movie song, everything is awesome.

Amount of Work

There are a team of managers in a meeting discussing a new project coming into the department. The discussion is to see how the scope of this effort requested from the company’s marketing department fits into the years effort.  Some of the managers were expressing concern that the scope of the proposed project might be beyond what can be delivered in the desired delivery time given the present project load. The process manager suggests we ask the marketing department to prioritize the scope items to be able to prioritize the work.  

The Chief Engineer responds saying we want to meet the customer’s expectations which means the entire scope of the project as articulated, no prioritization.  Everything is important.

Important product dimensions

There was a customer developing a new automotive system.  The system is the type of product where the quality and performance is critical.  The sort of thing where if things were to go wrong, could end up in a poor place.  It is understandable that there should a focus on certain attributes more than others given the potential difficulty. The automotive world is typically guided by Advanced Product Quality Planning or APQP.  

For those specific areas of quality interests there are things referred to as below: 

Critical Characteristics (CC)

  • A Critical Characteristic is the dimension / feature of material process, part or assemblies
  • The CC Characteristics is mainly given for regulatory requirement (Legal or environmental) purpose.

Significant Characteristics (SC)

  • In the FMEA, Significant Characteristics related cause and effect rated as severity 5 to 8, Also if cross function team decide we can rated as less than 5 severity.
  • The Significant Characteristics (SC) have more effect in manufacturing process. So if the SC characteristics get out of specification limit will leads to produce defects in manufacturing process.

These are very specific attributes areas. An extension of this focus to every dimension or many dimensions of the product, diffuse the focus.  The constraints and additional product quality assurance activities will come with additional time and costs to produce.

Project Priorities

A very fundamental element of project management, is all things are not equal.  

Somethings matter more than others, and this can vary widely from project to project and customer to customer.  It is also in the project manager’s and the organization conducing the project at large best interest.  Projects make trade-offs, and to do so effectively, requires understanding the most important things from the customer and technical perspectives.

A good way to put this into perspective, is with math.  Consider a task or deliverable that has a probability of success is 90%.  If we have two tasks, at 90%, an estimate of the probability of both successfully completed is:

Probability = T1 x T2
Probability = 90% x 90% = 81%

This the best-case scenario, assumes the variables are independent of interaction. This is often not the case, each preceding task often impacts the depending.

For example, a poor specification or late delivered product specification, will most assuredly have an impact on the next objective, create the product by a specific date. It is important that we recognize that the more tasks, the more objectives we have, the lower the probability of overall project success.

This is not the only risk. If we equally weigh the attributes of the product, features, or functions of the product, we put at risk the most prized features at the expense of the less desired features.

If Everything is Important

There is an adage “those that grasp much, holds nothing fast”.  

Focus, requires constraint.  In fact, the definition of focus, “the center of interest or activity” is obtained by reducing the area of focus.  

Somethings are more important than others, and we should apply our efforts (focus) on the most important. This applies to projects and product attributes.  In fact, this is one of the reasons for the success rates of Agile approaches like Scrum.  

These approaches constraints actions over short periods of time, focusing, the effort.  There are studies that suggest these approaches improve the success rates.


There are times when we may not understand the entire scope or the prioritization of the scope.  There are approaches to managing the project that account for a project scope that has uncertainty.  For example, an Agile approach such as Scrum can be helpful.  

The strategy taken for the project should match the objectives, rather than being dogmatic. For projects where the scope is known, the successful project manager would spend time prioritizing the scope of the project.  A prioritized project scope from the project sponsors is important for effective project management, and is time well consumed.  

Prioritization sets expectation between the sponsor and the project team. Trying to prioritize the scope after execution is well underway is difficult, as it is effectively changing the expectation.  From experience, descoping, is an effective approach to project during times of conflict.  

Trying to prioritize the scope under duress, consumes valuable time making a bad situation worse.