The 3 Legs Of A Successfully Organized Project


The 3 Legs Of A Successfully Organized Project

A colleague once explained to me that a successful project is like a three-legged stool.  The three legs of a successful project are Scope, Schedule, and Budget.  In this article I will explain each leg, how they can affect each other, and why they are the critical components of a successful project.


Scope, when used in the context of architecture describes the entirety of a project.  This can be as simple as “Kitchen Renovation”, an itemized list of every portion of the kitchen that you want renovated, along with finishes, new plumbing fixture model numbers, etc., or anything in between.  When considering how to communicate the scope of your project it is best to write down, and organize your thoughts on scope.  When preparing to discuss the scope of your project with a design professional, the more clearly defined scope you can have, the better they can assist you.  A succinct scope will also allow an architect to decide whether their involvement in the project is mutually beneficial, or necessary.  For example, if your scope involves replacing two windows, adding wood sills, and painting, an architect could tell you that in this instance a window installer would be sufficient for the project (in Allen County you are required to pull a permit for this work, but a good window installer should include that in their services to you).  This could also, all be done in one brief phone call thanks to your organized, and clear description of the scope.

On the other hand, for this same example, if you were to mention that you had a project in mind with some exterior remodeling, and some interior remodeling, most design professionals would come into the project assuming you needed their services, as well as coordination with various contractors.  This miscommunication due to vaguely defined scope may lead to unnecessary confusion, and cost on your part from the designers and contractors brought in to help.

As a side note, if you have an overall theme or style you would like to maintain for your home, an architect can certainly be of service to help maintain that theme or style with any project you may have in mind, big or small.  The intent of this article, is just to help inform you that defining a specific scope for a project you have in mind will help to successfully kick-off the project.

One additional item about scope to keep in mind is that it is easy to get excited about a project, and begin to include extraneous scope items that may not be in your best interest to include.  This, in the architectural community, is called scope creep.  For example, while considering a kitchen renovation,  you may think you might as well renovate the flooring in your dining room “while you’re at it”, but if this then affects your budget requiring you to downgrade the quality of your countertops, the extraneous scope has lessened the benefit, and impact of your overall project.  Putting constraints on your scope, a fixed set of goals, will allow for your project to turn out exactly as you planned.

Scope influences schedule by defining the work that needs to be completed, and the time it takes to complete that scope drives the schedule.  First, architects need time to complete schematic, and construction drawings to communicate your project scope to contractors.  Then, contractors need time to both bid, and build the project. Scope and Schedule have a direct relationship, in that as you grow or eliminate scope, your schedule will expand or minimize accordingly, in most cases.

Scope influences budget by defining how large the project is, and inherently how much it will cost.  These two legs have a direct correlation, as you shrink or grow scope, you lower or increase the budget.


Schedule is important to consider early on in a project, because much like the other two legs of the project “stool”, it can drive both budget, and scope.  When thinking about a project you will want to consider how long you are willing to have it take.  A kitchen renovation is a great example, as most people don’t have a secondary means of preparing food, so you have to take into account how much down-time you can have before you want to have your kitchen back.  If you can only live without your kitchen for 1 week, then maybe your project will have to be floors, and countertops, rather than a full gut and remodel.  If you can live without a kitchen for 3 months, then your scope can equally increase.  This also applies for new home construction, or additions.  You always have to keep in mind how long you are willing to have the project take, and communicate this early to any design professional you may have on board.

Schedule can influence budget in multiple ways.  If your schedule is set, and it is tighter than what contractors, and architects believe can be done during regular working hours, then it is likely that the budget will have to increase if the scope does not change.  The reason for budget increase would be a result of contractors working overtime, bringing additional crews to your home to help finish the job, or simply how you fit into their schedule.

Similarly, if your architect proposes a specific design schedule, and you inform them that you need it to be 60% of that design time, this will result in one of two possible outcomes.  A decrease in the architect’s services, fewer design iterations, and meetings to discuss them, which minimizes the opportunities to ensure the design is properly realized.  Shrinking the design time may also result in an increase in their fee to work overtime to produce design and construction drawings.



Budget may be the most complicated of the three legs of the project stool, because it is not as simple as setting a number, and hoping that the scope and schedule you have in mind will fall into place. Your budget for a home project may very well be the portion of project planning that needs the most coordination between an architect, and yourself.  To continue with the kitchen renovation example, if you contact an architect, and tell them you want to do a kitchen renovation, and you have $10,000 to do it, an architect can explain what that can buy when it comes to cabinetry, floor finishes, countertops, paint, etc.  If you then realize that the scope the architect recommended for your budget is not enough, then you can tone down the quality of the new materials, decrease the scope, or increase the budget.

Your architect should be able to walk you through the process of evaluating what you want, what you can afford, and how soon you can accomplish that.  Other items to consider when organizing your budget are, architects fees, incidental costs (dumpsters, delivery fees, etc.), and a contingency.  As an architect I would recommend at least 15% contingency, meaning that in the event that something doesn’t go according to plan during construction, you have a small amount saved to take care of these items.  As much as I would like to say that a project can be completed exactly as planned without a single change, it has never happened, and being up front about saving for the inevitable revision is the only way to have a successful project.

One final point to make about this kitchen renovation example is that an architect could help you consider phasing your project if it is over budget.  An architect would be able to educate you on what scope you could afford today, and then if you save an additional $x,000, how to effectively finish the original project you had hoped to complete with minimal rework or removal of newer materials, at a later date.

Budget directly affects scope by constraining it, in a good way.  Whatever your budget may be for your project, it helps to set ground rules for how to design it.  For those lucky enough to have scope in mind, and the budget is “whatever it takes”, this helps to inform your architect that quality, and a comprehensive project is the most critical aspect of the job.

Budget’s affect on schedule is slightly more subtle.  If your scope, and budget are aligned, and your personal schedule for the project is within what contractors and architects find to be acceptable, then there is no affect.  However, if your budget is larger than the scope of your project, and you need the schedule to be fast-tracked, the schedule can be compressed for additional fee in most circumstances.  Inversely, if your budget is smaller than your scope, unfortunately, lengthening the schedule does not help the project.

Sticky Note Conclusion

Scope, Schedule, and Budget make up the three legs of a successfully organized project.  If you have a good grasp on two of the legs, an architect can help educate you to understand the third.  All three components should be well thought out before undertaking a project to make home your own.

If you need help understanding any of the three legs of your next project, please reach out, and tell us what you have in mind.

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