Friday, September 5, 2008

Project creep

Once upon a time, when I first started working in IT&T, I discovered a wonderful phenomenon called 'scope creep'. To explain this using everyday terms, let's pretend that scope creep happens in a hardware shop.

A customer comes in to a hardware shop and asks the shop assistant for a packet of nails. The shop assistant talks to the customer about what they want, shows them a few different packets of nails and helps the customer to make a decision. The shop assistant takes the nails to the till - just as they are about to put the purchase through the till, the customer shouts "Wait!! I'd like to get bigger nails and I also want a hammer please".

No worries! The shop assistant gets the new bag of nails and the hammer... "Wait! I don't actually want any of that - do you have a three piece bathroom setting?".

Scope creep is probably the reason for the myki blowout and for every other IT&T-related disaster in the history of disasters. One of the highlights of my new role as Retail Manager (I thought) was the end of scope creep. Never again, I told myself, would I sign a contract to write a procedures manual and end up being asked to produce three manuals, training materials and a website for the same price. Never again would I start documenting a simple planning spreadsheet that would evolve (as I worked) into a full-featured monster complete with project plans, budgeting tools and a coffee futures calculator.

That was when I discovered project creep. As a humble hobby knitter, I already knew about projects. After all, I had enough yarn for at least 12 projects in my stash at any one time. I carried a list of yarns on my Palm Pilot, just in case I came across a yarn sale and could pick up the materials for yet another project at a discount. If I'd dared to add up the value of the yarn stashed in my wardrobe, it would probably have been worth more than all my clothing combined.

As a wool shop owner, though, project creep took on a whole new dimension. Now I had access to a wool stash (also known as my stock!) that was not only worth more than my limited wardrobe, it was probably worth more than my car. I also had customers who wanted to know what this yarn and that wool knitted up like - how did it look crocheted - how would this pattern work, there's no photo of the back! On top of that, customers were enquiring about classes - what will we end up with at the end of the class? Do you have a sample? What would it look like in green?

From having 12 projects, all in my colours and my size, I was suddenly confronted with the possibility of an infinite number of projects in every colour and size that my customers might ever conceivably ask about. I was also under a lot more pressure to actually complete some of my projects, so that I could wear my very own hand-knitted creations in the shop. After all, how much cred does a wool shop owner have when she's wearing a cheap acrylic top that she picked up on sale at Best and Less?

I think I rose to the challenge well. On my first day of trading, I brought four bags of wool into the shop. Each bag contained wool for half a dozen projects mixed up together but not enough of anything to do more than about 20cm of knitting. This was fine, because I'd left the patterns and needles in my flat so I couldn't knit anyway. On the second day of trading, I started one of the class projects, a spiderweb wool scarf, and also a vest for myself. On the seventh day of trading, my family came to visit. I finished the scarf, started to crochet a scarf as an example for the beginner crochet class and also promised to knit my father a hat for Father's Day. In my third week of trading, I made an arrangement with a local artist to sell her lovely hand-dyed, hand-spun wools. Of course, the obvious way to promote this new addition to our product range was to buy the two loveliest skeins to knit myself some sort of amazing garment that would bring yarn aficionados into the shop in droves. I thought about entering my projects in Ravelry so that I could keep track of them, but the enormity of the task overwhelmed me before I even began - besides, time spent on Ravelry would be time taken away from knitting up my projects!

For the last month, I've juggled the crochet project (finished this week, now proudly hanging from Dixie the mannequin's left arm), the vest (done the back and part of the left front) and the hat (two rows long so far - happy Father's Day, Dad!!). I've hidden Dad's partly completed birthday jumper (which became the Father's Day jumper, which will now be the Christmas jumper) in my wardrobe so that I don't have to worry about it. I've gone through my stash working out what to knit for summer, and shown The Skeins around at a local knitting group, seeking inspiration for amazing garments.

In fact the only thing that I haven't done is add up the value of my stash: if my stash is worth more than my stock, I really don't want to know!

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