If you are going to run a Lean rapid improvement event (RIE) you probably need the answer to a few questions beforehand. Well-scoped RIEs have a much greater chance of delivering an excellent outcome than do those that were poorly scoped. Lean facilitators are in the business of helping to solve process problems, not create them. This is where BOSCARD comes in.

Purpose of a Scoping meeting

But first, let’s look at the purpose of a Scoping meeting. At a high level, it’s held to answer these questions:

  1. Do we have a problem? The crew of Apollo 13 certainly did. But do we? If we do, what is it?
  2. Will running an RIE fix this problem, or can we do so some other way? When your favourite tool is a hammer all you see is nails. When is your favourite Lean approach is to run a full-blown RIE then that will be what you bring to the game every time. But it is unlikely to be appropriate in every instance.
  3. If ‘Yes’ to running an RIE, is fixing the problem worth the investment of resources, time and money, to do so? It’s a question of scale: is the pain caused by the problem sufficient to merit the investment? If it is, then what are the parameters of the RIE? We all know the story of the blind people and the elephant where each person examines only a part of the elephant and fails to understand the whole.

Answering these and other important questions requires the right people in a room for the right amount of time – the Scoping meeting. And this meeting is not held with the intention of solving a process problem there and then. You are most unlikely to have the right people in the room at the time, and even if you did, in the short time available you would not be able to fully understand the process as it currently runs, nor generate the right ideas for improvement, nor create and then implement that new process.


Back to BOSCARD. It serves a number of purposes including:

  1. It is a collaborative and empowering facilitator-led tool for defining the parameters of and whether to proceed with an idea for an RIE.
  2. It enables a consultative approach to secure group agreement on problem definition.
  3. It helps create structure out of what can often be an unstructured discussion.
  4. It is a simple tool with which to quickly gather and deliver all important project information from and to stakeholders.
  5. It provides opportunities for all participants and ideas to be heard, useful where one or more participants or ideas may dominate.
  6. It focuses participants, and prevents them from jumping to conclusions and making sub-optimal decisions.
  7. It provides terms of reference for the entire project, i.e. before, during and after the RIE.

BOSCARD categories

Now let’s look briefly at each category of BOSCARD i.e., Background, Objective, Scope, Constraints, Assumptions, Risks, Deliverables:

Background sets the scene, the rationale for the RIE, the history of how we got to where we are, and in practice can include relevant information that cannot logically be included elsewhere (this led to the development of BOSCARD+ which will be covered in a later blog).

Objective is the high-level purpose of the RIE, best written as an aspirational and inspirational statement. This is not a SMART objective for at this step the process is not fully enough understood, therefore, it is difficult if not impossible to create an objective that is SMART, i.e., specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-sensitive.

Scope establishes the subject process start and endpoints and therefore defines what is within, and out, of scope. We must know the process start and endpoints, otherwise, we will not know e.g., the size of the RIE or whom to involve.

Constraints are factors that may impede or prevent the RIE from going ahead or implementing its outcomes. Constraints, matters of concern to stakeholders in the room, are usually pitched negatively. The number and apparent strength of constraints are typically dealt with by Assumptions.

Assumptions are those factors considered to be true and that will lead to a successful RIE and outcome. They are ordinarily positive statements that address each of the constraints. I try and add one unprompted but in agreement with the team. And it is ‘We can and will do this’.

The Risks are the risks of doing nothing to improve the current process and, of doing something but that something results in the design and implementation of a sub-optimal new process, i.e., the risks of doing the wrong thing. What I am looking for here, is a clear signal the status quo cannot remain, and the most efficient new process is to be designed and implemented. Let’s do something and make sure it’s the right thing. There is no wriggle room.

Deliverables are the key outcomes necessary to achieve the objective. We are not talking about arbitrary performance targets, perhaps those decreed by a senior manager. The current process is not yet understood, and potential improvements have not yet been raised or considered and we have therefore no idea of how dramatic an improvement can be achieved.

BOSCARD in action

So how does a Scoping meeting using BOSCARD run in practice?

At the beginning of the meeting, the facilitator will probably start with Background, it is usually the category many know most about, and it may also be an uncontentious area for some people, and it can help the flow of ideas for other categories. Some people, in their enthusiasm to improve the process, may leap to immediately suggesting potential solutions. The facilitator should note these under Deliverables.

It is a good idea to get to Scope as soon as you can, once the ‘from’ and ‘to’ of the process has been determined, the majority of the discussion should fall within those bounds.

‘Objective’ may be the last category completed. It may not be until near the end of the meeting that the participants fully understand what is possible and achievable.

There is an ebb and flow to the discussion as participants offer information and ask questions of each other and of the facilitator. The facilitator’s role is to write the comments made under the appropriate heading while testing the validity of those statements by drawing on the expertise of all participants. Questions are likewise fed to the group to discuss and arrive at a decision as to their validity and that of any answers.

Want to know more?

That’s running a scoping meeting using BOSCARD in a nutshell. Of course, there’s more to it than this, and if you want to know more, please get in touch.

And if you’re looking for bedtime reading on BOSCARD, there’s always Global Lean for Higher Education edited by Steve Yorkstone, Lean Higher Education by Bill Balzer, and Chris Shannon’s Collaborative Problem Solving.