Recently, while helping with a project plan, a specialist asked me if there was a standard checklist for scoping projects. It’s a common question in project management.

Project managers often look for clear steps and processes to make sure every part of a project is well-planned. Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all checklist, there are essential questions and methods that are important for starting all projects.

Below, we’ve shared some key tips that can guide you in setting up your project. This list is a good starting point, but you may need to add more or adjust depending on the unique needs of your project. Let’s dive in!

Process – Stage 1 Initiation


Define the purpose

The initiation phase marks the start of the project, laying down the foundation for all subsequent stages. At the heart of this phase is defining the purpose, where we begin to clarify the objectives and the reasons for undertaking the project. By engaging in a focused and guided enquiry, project managers seek to understand the core rationale driving the project forward.

Essential questions that steer this understanding include:

  • Is there a specific goal or objective to be met?
  • Is there a problem awaiting a solution?
  • Is there an opportunity to be taken advantage of?

These key questions help to unveil the project’s essence, promoting a clear understanding among team members, stakeholders, and everyone involved. A unanimous understanding of the project’s purpose is a solid defence against scope creep, ensuring that every element, task, or change aligns with the project’s primary objectives.

Having established the purpose, we then dive deeper into delineating the expected outcomes and benefits:

  • What tangible gains do we aim to achieve upon the project’s completion?
  • What improvements do we anticipate?

Employing tools like mind mapping or seeking stakeholder insights can be instrumental in listing and visualising these outcomes. This approach doesn’t just help in identifying the benefits but also in painting a picture of the project’s end state, offering clarity and a sense of direction as the project unfolds.

Remember, every step, every task, and every decision made should resonate with the project’s primary goals and objectives, ensuring consistency, relevance, and a strategic approach to managing the project’s scope.


Performance criteria

As we navigate deeper into the project scoping process, establishing performance criteria becomes paramount. It’s not just about identifying the benefits but also understanding what success looks like in tangible terms.

Defining what “good” looks like is crucial. After discerning the potential benefits, the next step is to establish a robust framework of performance criteria. These criteria act as a reference, guiding the project team in evaluating the success and effectiveness of each outcome and ensuring that the project stays on track towards achieving its goals.

Key questions to consider include:

  • What benefits are we aiming to harvest from this project?
  • How do we measure these benefits in quantifiable terms?
  • What benchmarks or milestones signal success?
  • Will the anticipated value and benefits overshadow the costs and resources invested in the project?

Ensuring that each benefit is meticulously measured and analysed is vital for comprehensively evaluating the project’s performance. A systematic approach to measurement and reporting allows the management team to assess whether the project aligns with business objectives, providing crucial insights into the cost–benefit aspects of the project.

This approach aids in making informed decisions, fostering clarity and understanding of the project’s value and effectiveness in achieving the desired outcomes and benefits.


Scoping statement

The scoping statement stands as a foundational pillar in project management. It encapsulates the essence of the project in a clear and concise description, acting as a guiding star that illuminates the project’s path.

This brief yet powerful statement is instrumental in converting the core objectives and deliverables of the project, ensuring that everyone, from team members to stakeholders, has a unified understanding and clear vision of what the project aims to achieve.

A well-crafted scoping statement is more than just an overview; it’s a crucial reference point that stakeholders and team members can continually revisit to realign their focus and efforts. Its clarity and precision are paramount, as it needs to effectively communicate the project’s goals and boundaries, ensuring that everyone involved has a coherent and unified vision of the project’s direction and purpose.

The significance of the scoping statement extends beyond the initial stages, as it also serves as an essential resource for onboarding. New members joining the project team can refer to the statement to swiftly acquaint themselves with the project’s objectives, scope, and expected deliverables, fostering a smooth integration process and consistent understanding across the team.

In essence, the scoping statement acts as a beacon, providing clarity, direction, and a focused vision to drive the project towards success.


Every project unfolds as a series of intricate components coming together to paint a bigger picture. These components, or deliverables, are the bricks that build the pathway to project completion and success.

Defining these deliverables is a meticulous process, an unfolding where each piece is carefully curated and placed in the broader vision of the project. Involving both end-users and senior management in formulating this list is crucial, ensuring a diverse pool of insights and a more comprehensive identification of essential project elements.

Deliverables typically fall into two categories: inclusions and exclusions.


Inclusions are the primary responsibilities of the project team, integral elements built within the framework of the project. They are the gears that keep the project machine running smoothly, each contributing to the functionality and success of the overall project. The financial investment in these inclusions is woven into the fabric of the project budget, reflecting their central role in the project’s execution.


Exclusions, on the other hand, are like the satellites orbiting around the project. While not directly embedded within the project’s operational fabric, they influence its trajectory and outcomes. Exclusions typically align with external projects or programs, and their financial footprint doesn’t imprint on the project’s budget. Recognising and identifying these exclusions is vital, as they pose potential impacts, influences, and shifts to the project’s course.

Responsibilities are delineated among team members, each in charge of particular deliverables or outputs. Subject matter experts take the reins, steering their segments of the project with precision and expertise.

Accountability permeates through each phase, continually evaluating essential benchmarks such as quality, timelines, and budget adherence. Every deliverable is a beacon, guiding the project towards its objectives, each light coming together to illuminate the path to project success.



In project planning, assumptions are foundational pillars, necessitating detailed documentation and analysis. These preconceived elements, integral to shaping the project scope, require unanimous team awareness and control mechanisms to mitigate associated risks.

Assumptions usher in potential uncertainties, influencing project timelines and necessitating strategic mitigation processes for risk management. Through carefully orchestrating approval workflows, each assumption undergoes rigorous audit procedures, ensuring alignment with project requirements and objectives.

This structured approach culminates in a comprehensive sign-off, solidifying the project’s baseline and propelling work processes towards successful realisation.



In the fabric of project management, constraints are inevitable hurdles that challenge the adaptive capacities of project teams. These constraints, varying in form, can extend across various facets such as scope, quality, cost, and timeline. For instance, limitations in the project scope statement might be due to restricted features or stringent delivery timelines.

Additionally, certain tasks may be hemmed in by resource availability or predefined schedules, representing explicit examples of constraints that necessitate meticulous planning and strategic foresight.

It’s essential that any constraints, whether they influence the scope statement, tasks, or any other project components, are meticulously identified and documented. Teams should be acutely aware of these constraints as they formulate strategies, ensuring the project navigates seamlessly through these predefined boundaries, ultimately adhering to the projected timeline and the stipulated project scope.

By carefully mapping out these constraints, teams are better equipped to anticipate potential impacts, allowing for a more resilient and adaptable project execution strategy.



Effective communication lies at the heart of every successful project. Identifying project stakeholders and tailoring communication strategies to meet their specific needs is paramount. At the outset, a project manager should cultivate a robust communications plan, delineating the channels, frequency, and content of communication.

Key questions to guide stakeholder identification include:

  • Who pays for the project? This can include — but is not limited to — sponsors, funders, lenders, and co-contributors.
  • Who benefits from the project? This is usually identified when conducting your benefit mapping exercise.
  • Who is impacted by the project? Projects bring about change, and this change often impacts those who may not necessarily benefit from the project.
  • Who governs or regulates the project? Projects may have to meet safety and environmental policies or other criteria. Usually, there’s a regulator who is responsible for ensuring that appropriate standards are met.

This exercise isn’t just a formality but a way to align project goals and expectations, facilitating smoother progress through clarity and understanding. For instance, if a company is launching a new product, understanding and managing the flow of information between various stakeholders, such as clients and customers, becomes essential.

Various documents, ranging from project deliverables to change requests, form the basis of communication, each carrying significance in the documentation and realisation of project objectives.

Communication isn’t static; it evolves with the project. As new stakeholders emerge, adapting the communication strategies, tweaking deadlines, and incorporating changes become necessary to maintain alignment with project goals. Ultimately, effective communication fosters a shared understanding and mutual expectations among all parties involved, paving the way for a cohesive approach toward achieving project objectives.


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