“Danger Close”

    Direct fire weapons systems rely on line-of-sight.  For example, a rifle, machine gun, anti-armor rocket, or tank main gun are all direct fire weapons.  A soldier sees the target and sends a projectile directly towards it.

    On the other hand, indirect fire weapons are those that do not rely on line-of-sight of the target for their deployment.

    Think of mortars, artillery, naval gunfire, and (maybe) close air support – these are all considered indirect fires. 

    Simply put - think of indirect fires as someone lobbing an explosive up in the air and down on the bad guys.

    Often, the troops carrying out these missions do not see the enemy.  They fire their weapons at the request of the troops who are engaged.  The coordination around this is actually pretty impressive, but beyond my capacity to explain. 

    Suffice to say that you can call someone who is miles away on the radio, give them coordinates for your target and your direction of observation, and they (the battery) are able to do calculations to figure out which direction and angle to aim their guns. 

    The most basic fire mission is the “adjust fire” mission, where the battery will launch one round at a time, to be walked onto the target.  The observer will make corrections (up, down, left, right) until the battery is able to get around in the desired location.  At this point, the observer requests a “fire for effect,” and every gun in the battery opens up on the target.  This mission can be repeated until the target is subdued.

    Sometimes, munitions may be dropped close enough to endanger friendly forces.  In this scenario, the forces requesting the fire mission will declare “Danger Close.”  A danger close distance depends on the type of munition requested. 

    For our heavy artillery, for example, anything within 600 meters of friendly forces is “Danger Close.” 

    For naval gunfire, the danger close distance might be 750-1,000 meters. 

    Not being an artilleryman myself, I actually don’t know what “danger close” means to the battery.  Obviously, if you are the force requesting support, you want your allies to know they are lobbing rounds close to your position.  It’s just good information.  However, I’m not sure what the battery does with that knowledge, other than triple check their aim before sending rounds downrange.  Perhaps they err on the side of caution (away from the observer) in their calculations. 

    So, what in the world has all this got to do with Project Management?

    Standing Up to Scope Creep

    By: Tom Goebel, PMI Houston Director of Communications

    I once worked for a company that couldn’t say no. The minute the customer demanded concessions or extra services (no change in price, mind you!) so fearful was our organization about the loss of business or revenue that we would inevitably cave. This tendency was ultimately made worse during market downturns when we desperately trying to cling to market share.

    Here’s the thing, though. That behavior is a losing proposition. It also has a way of becoming habitual. Scope creep creates several lasting effects, none of which are very desirable:

    • a breakdown in staff morale – nothing defeats a team so much as wondering whether they’re going to be loaded down with even more work tomorrow;
    • loss of client respect and attendant abuse of goodwill – requests become expectations, and expectations demands when the provider gives in too easily;
    • loss of customer confidence in contracted company’s knowledge and sense of direction; 4) loss of negotiating power – a subset of reason #2, the customer starts to believe that there is no substance behind the contractor’s negotiating position.

    Let’s examine some of the reasons for scope creep. You already know the causes if not the ultimate symptom. The most obvious is the weak Project Manager. This is the guy who can’t say no. When you don’t say no, your Project Management train’s next stop is overpromising, the results of which are entirely predictable. Soon, there is no possible way to deliver internal and external commitments, and confidence in the PMO is frittered away. In some cases, this weakness is not owned by the PM, but the sponsor or executive team.

    An improperly defined scope can also lead to mission creep. Unclear or vague requirements lead to accidental and even intentional misapplication. Good planning in the definition stage leads to clear understanding by all parties during execution.

    Another contributor to scope creep is the lack of a good change control process. Unsurprisingly, the mere act of securing approval for a large change serves to prioritize that change, even to the point of elimination, if needed. The change control process greatly facilitates communication by ensuring the involvement of critical stakeholders.

    When managing a project, it is important to pay attention in the early planning stages to accurate scope definition that aligns what the customer wants with what he’s going to get. Do this by interacting with the customer to make sure he has a clear picture of what the deliverables will be. Just as importantly, your team needs to have a clear idea of deliverables. Once armed with these agreements, the notion of any pushovers on the team should evaporate. Confusion and obfuscation have been removed from the equation.

    Finally, see to your change control process. Ensure that you have included the channels and stakeholders needed to effectively expedite approvals.

    There are undoubtedly more contributors to scope creep. I’ve just listed the main culprits. Working to address these should help you to run a smoother and more productive project.