6-2-Determine Scope

Step 1: Determine Scope

Initiate action planning for capability building by determining the scope of the effort, establishing a focus, determining why additional capabilities are needed and how much to take on at once.

Use the ACB Framework to Determine Scope

Action planning should start with a determination by senior leadership of desired area(s) for capability-building. It is important to know at this step what is prompting the need for change. It may be that a specific disruptive change force is resulting in a capability gap that is driving the effort:

• Technology Advancement
• Legislation, Regulation & Funding
• Workforce Evolution
• Shift in DOT Role & Focus
• Public Expectations

For example, federal performance-based planning requirements are driving an agency to consider incorporating a new approach to project prioritization. The agency knows that it doesn’t have the processes in place or capabilities to perform some of the activities that will be needed to carry out this new function in an efficient and effective way. Agency leadership knows they will need to run forecasting scenarios, make programming adjustments based on their performance and work across divisions to get the data needed to make decisions.

On the other hand, perhaps an agency already has a big picture idea on how to move forward. It is possible that the agency has started down the road of focusing on a specific strategy:

• Organizational Management
• Workforce Management
• Knowledge Management
• Information and & Data Management
• Partnerships

Perhaps leadership within an agency establishes a strategic goal to improve sharing of data and information across the agency. Leadership has a long-term goal to implement organizational changes that will facilitate information sharing and to eventually democratize agency data so it is widely available across systems, divisions and regions. Over the short term, the agency wants to implement data governance to establish principles around collecting, storing and sharing data.

Having knowledge of what is driving the need for capability building is helpful in determining where the agency is at in terms of mobilizing to develop the initial scope of the effort and understanding the current state of capabilities.1 There will likely be additional work needed to agree upon scope if a change force is prompting the need for change as opposed to the agency already having a strategy in mind.

Regardless of what is driving the need for capability building, at the end of this step, the agency should have a common understanding that there is capability gap that must be closed and an action plan is needed to formalize the process.

Determine Incremental or Transformational Approach

Action planning can be carried out for small changes or to have larger impacts on existing organizational structures, culture or strategy. Two approaches that can be taken in action planning for capability building are:

• Incremental – small changes over time to the existing systems and processes
• Transformational – systemic changes to an organization

Some of the considerations in deciding whether to use an incremental or transformational approach are shown in the table below.

Table 6.1 Action Planning Considerations

ScopeLocal scope – Isolated to one or just a few business areasAgency-wide
ScaleWill not require major changes to structure or systemsWill significantly change the agency culture, strategy and systems
Resources neededFew – small implementation team made up of process ownersMany – medium to large team needed across multiple business areas
Outreach requiredneededModerate- to high engagement needed, including strong leadership support
Time FrameShort-term but iterativeMid- to long-term
Other benefitsProvides a quick win as a foundation to future changesDrives culture change based on agency-wide changes to strategy

There are times when it is most appropriate to use an incremental approach, such as when there is a high risk associated with making wholesale structural or strategic changes across the organization. For example, a DOT operating in a severely constrained financial environment may not be in the best position to undertake a transformational action plan to restructure operations divisions and hire staff to focus on major infrastructure investments in disruptive technology. On the other hand, they may benefit from establishing a task force or small unit focused on developing capabilities to innovate and drive efficiency within the agency.

An incremental approach can often be achieved with a small pool of staff and financial resources, and can build the foundation for additional iterative implementation that could lead incrementally to major transformation over time.

When the capability building effort is critical across the agency, and there is low risk of making a systemic change, a transformational approach may be in order. For example, a state DOT faced with a serious security breach involving employees’ personal data may undertake an agency-wide data management initiative to assess and mitigate system damage and data loss, and build up capability to secure data in the future. This approach requires mobilization of a significant number of staff and coordination across multiple business areas. Furthermore, it cannot be achieved without active project management and leadership support. These topics are discussed in more detail in Step 5 of this chapter.

See the attached Scoping Template for a guide on completing this step.

Step 1 Checklist
Use the ACB Framework to determine scope.
• Do we understand which change forces matter most?
• On which needs should we focus?
• Which strategies are likely to support our selected needs and the capability(ies) that need to be built?
Determine incremental or transformational approach
• Is our scope local or agency-wide?
• Is the scale within current functions or does it require systemic changes?
• Do we know at a high-level the number of resources needed?
• Generally, how much outreach will be needed, based on the scope and scale?
• Do we have a general sense of the timeframe that will be needed?
• Have we thought about other benefits of our selected approach?
Complete Step 1 – Determine Scope
Project Scope Statement
What is within the scope of the project? What business objectives does this project accomplish? What change forces and/or organizational needs does it address? What strategies will be used? What capabilities will be enhanced? This will be refined in later action planning steps. If this project includes a charter, scope statement should align with scope/problem statement in charter.

Initiative NameNote: “Working name” for the initiative.
BackgroundNote: Describes the background, context and need for the initiative.
DescriptionNote: Describes the high-level project suppliers, inputs, process, deliverables, outputs, customers. For example, “develop a process for governance and management of knowledge within the agency. This will establish the sources and types of knowledge addressed, ownership, the knowledge lifecycle, dissemination of knowledge and list of knowledge recipients.”
BenefitsNote: How will we know the project is a success? This could include performance measures, if known. This section will be refined in later steps of the action planning effort.
Initiative TimeframeNote: Provide a rough timeframe for the initiative.
AssumptionsNote: For example, could address whether scope is local or agency wide, assumptions about resource availability, other internal or external factors that could impact success. Assumptions should be tested and actions taken if any assumptions are false.


Out of scopeNote: What is “not” part of initiative? For example, if scope is local, out of scope does not include other divisions or agency wide activities.

Item 1

Item 2
RisksNote: Include summary of all risks, their likelihood (high/medium/low), severity (high/medium/low) and any mitigating actions.


Additional documentationNote: Attach additional documentation, such as current process steps, business requirements, etc.