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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chapter 4: What is Progressive Elaboration

In the previous chapter, we understood in detail what a project is. In this chapter, we are going to see what Progressive Elaboration is.

So, lets get started!!!

What is Progressive Elaboration

Projects may be temporary endeavors but they cannot be conceived in a day and for sure cannot be executed/completed in a day (unless you define going to the grocery store as a project)
Usually there is a concept first and then a broad vision for the end product, i.e., the outcome or result of the project.

The clearer vision you have of the unique product that you want from the project, the more accurate the project plan will be. So, you move toward the final project plan in incremental steps as the ideas about the final product are refined and as you get more and more information about the requirements in a progressive fashion. This procedure of defining (or planning) a project is called progressive elaboration.

Example of Progressive Elaboration:

Let us imagine the following:

You are the Managing Director of Honda Motors and you wake up one fine day with an idea to reassert Honda as a leading car manufacturer. You intend on doing that by creating a super fast sports car that is going to give the Ferraris and the Lamborghinis a run for their money. How do you do it?

You first conceptualize your car, how you want it to look, how much you want to price it, the kind of speed you want it to reach, the kind of luxury & safety features you want in your car, the list is endless. Going back to the first line of this paragraph, you cannot list down the whole set of requirements in a day.

You first define a set of basic guidelines like:

I want my car to touch 300 kmph and not exceed $250,000. It must be one of the most luxurious drives a car aficionado can get his hands on. It must have top of the line safety features.

The next step would be to call for a meeting with your top designers and engineers and kick start the cycle. They will now take your basic guidelines and start building on it. Once all the requirements of your dream sports car is ready, you go to the next big step.

How are you going to do this?

Here you are referring to the project plan. By now, you could have understood that a project plan is a detailed step by step explanation of how you intend on completing a project. All the resources involved (men, money, time etc) will be taken into account and steps will be outlined that the people involved in the development of the project will follow to take the project to success.

What will be the Result?

A product, a super fast sports car that will take the markets by storm…

Progressive elaboration, in general, means developing something in incremental steps. The project plan will be broadly defined to start and will get more accurate, detailed, and explicit in an incremental fashion as better understanding about the project deliverables and objectives develops. It involves successive iterations of the planning process resulting in a more accurate and complete plan.

Even after you have an approved final project plan and the project starts executing, progressive elaboration continues to some extent.

Trivia:
Uncontrolled changes that make their way into the project without being properly processed are called scope creep. Do not confuse progressive elaboration with scope creep. And don't worry about scope creep just yet. We are just getting started. We will deal with this bad boy in detail very soon.

Each stage of a project is managed by performing a set of processes. And the process is what we will learn in the next chapter…

Previous: Understanding Projects

Next: Understanding Process

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