Scale and Perspective


A blimp in the distance.

Understanding Scale is what Engineers and Project Managers do.  Understanding Perspective is what Leaders do.  Combining the two, marrying scale and perspective, is what Project Leaders do.


Building to scale is when you construct something to be proportionally equivalent to the final product.  Scale models are used to understand spatial relationships; scale systems are used to test loads and outputs.  Scale also is a measure of degree.  A small-scale project versus a large-scale project.  Scaling a project refers to pilot testing and then upsizing a system to its final size or load.


Perspective is a point-of-view and understanding the relationship of things from a specific place; knowing how to represent items in terms of the things around it.  Artistic perspective often discusses the ability to translate 3-dimensional into 2-dimensional in such a way that it is understandable and realistic to the viewer.  Abstract perspective involves the position and observation from the individual on the topic or object.  Perspective is tied to emotion and experience.

When working on a project, it is important to remember both Scale and Perspective throughout the process.  Using the DMAIC model from 6-sigma, we can apply both Scale and Perspective throughout the method.

Define – Understanding the scale of the project is part of the define phase.  One must determine the size and scope that will be included and excluded as part of the project.  The Project Leader must also understand the perspective of the sponsor and the end-user.  Too many times we omit the perspective of the people that know the process best and can add significant value to the scope.

Measure – This is often thought of as strictly a scientific item.  However, this phase of the project requires a thorough understanding of the perspectives of the customer, sponsor, user, and team.  Each of these perspectives will have different metrics that are important to them and they need to at least be considered.  Some will be eliminated due to time constraints, feasibility, or other reasons, but consideration is key when involving people in your project.  The scale of this phase can be daunting unless a good method of vetting the essential from the ancillary is found.  Scaling this section back can be detrimental unless all of the perspectives that affect the project are understood.

Analyze – Be careful of “paralysis by analysis”.  There are hundreds of statistical tools to use and different ways to slice and dice the data.  Scale your analysis so that it is representative of the perspectives you choose to include in your project.  Understand the key improvement areas of each and perform an initial-phase test to see if the data warrants further investigation.

Improve – This is where scale and perspective can sometimes collide.  By including multiple perspectives you will undoubtedly increase the scale of the project.  Understand where improvement will yield the best results and start there, adding scale as long as the project justifies the improvement.  Implementation may need to be scaled as well, working your way to the final product once you have proven the method.

Control – This is where gaining perspective at the beginning of the project will pay the most dividends.  By understanding the perspective of the end-user you will be able to sustain and control the process.  Remember, the end-user will be the one to decide whether or not your project will work, not the boss, not the sponsor, not you.  If the end-user decides that the project does not satisfy the need from their perspective, no matter how much you scale, it won’t work…period.

We, as Project Leaders, are people that work with processes, projects, and people.  We have to understand the process we are affecting, design and manage the projects that will improve that process, and serve the people that will benefit from and use the final product.

What is your perspective of this post?

How have you seen different perspectives affect the outcome of a project?


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