Studying Big Hero 6’s Yokai: Scope Management for One

Image Source = Villains Wikia
Image Source = Villains Wikia

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Klingon proverb

We all take on personal projects – and proper project management is equally, if not more important when your team is just you. Your project might be a personal improvement such as learning a language or cultivation of your backyard paradise. If you’re a super villain your project may be stealing a tremendous amount of money, or getting even with those who have wronged you in the past. Understanding of the Scope Management knowledge area enables us to visualize our overall objective, the needed milestones to get there, and can keep us on the path to success.

How Cool Is That
Image Credit: Big Hero 6

In Big Hero 6, Yokai – the Man in the Kabuki Mask, is a villain with all the tools he needs to succeed in his quest for revenge. He is a team of one and doesn’t have to go through phase gates or checkpoints to get funding or support. He has millions of microbots which allow him to transport, build, or destroy anything he wants – via mind control. He doesn’t have any entanglements with any other people, because he faked his own death. Talk about commitment. And yet despite having all of the physical, technological, and social elements put in order for him to succeed – his lacking skill in the Scope Management knowledge area leads to his ultimate downfall and failure.

Scope Management Knowledge Area

Project Scope Management includes all processes required to ensure a project includes all work required and only the work required to complete the project. What is interesting about this knowledge area is that it is involved in two different times in a project’s life: during the Planning phase and Monitoring & Controlling phase. By executing Scope Management early in the project, you can be directionally sound. Through Scope Management during the Monitoring & Controlling time frame, a project is able to make needed adjustments without allowing work or effort to deviate from the overall objective(s).

Image Source: Silent Sparrow Tumblr
Image Source: Silent Sparrow Tumblr

Yokai’s failure to properly Define Scope (5.2)

Technically, Yokai made a Scope Statement when he stated his scope aloud rather than create a document. We can assume he already thought through his scope statement before we hear him speak about it; given that he was a mystery to start with. We learned that Yokai wanted to do two things:

  1. Take everything away from Krei
    • Make Krei watch everything he built disappear, then make Krei disappear
  2. Get daughter back

Unfortunately because the Scope Statement wasn’t put into place early in the project as the committed scope, he ended up with many extra activities and effort that were not really conducive to his goals.

Another failure of Yokai’s during the Define Scope process was that he did not define his deliverables. Did he need to have Krei’s building sucked into the same portal as his daughter? Probably not. He could have instead had the microbots dismantle the building from the inside. Plus, the physical building wasn’t everything that Krei had built since Krei Tech is the largest technology firm in the world.

The third and final failure to Define Scope was that Yokai did not set forth what his acceptance criteria were. If Yokai had stopped and considered that Krei being dead, or sucked into the portal, would have been acceptable – then he could have simply grabbed Krei and flung him into the portal. No fuss.

Yokai failed to properly define what his project scope was, and that sent his project down a path that would later prove extremely difficult to manage and grossly over-engineered.

Yokai’s Error to Verify Scope (5.4)

Our villain never stood a chance to Verify Scope. He needed to have a clear understanding of his deliverables and acceptance criteria – but because he didn’t have either he spent a tremendous amount of time wasted on activities that wouldn’t actually help him.

Car Chase
Image Source: Big Hero 6

When Hiro and his allies stop to have an emotional sharing session, Yokai did not need to throw shipping containers at them. Yokai may have perceived a risk with Hiro and Baymax snooping around. However by actively attacking Hiro, Baymax and the others only served to galvanize them against him. Yokai could have ignored them entirely with no impact to his objective.

Image Source: Big Hero 6
Image Source: Big Hero 6

Again, when Hiro was at the military base on the island, Yokai could have easily simply slipped away without drawing attention to himself. Instead, he threw a giant piece of wall at them and again engaged them in a fight. He only created more activity which caused delays in the overall objective delivery – and also introduced a much more serious risk to the project because the team learned of Yokai’s true identity.

Image Source: Big Hero 6
Image Source: Big Hero 6

Last, when he was twice asked what he wanted, presumably as a result of his actions holding Krei hostage and fighting the good guys, he had two divergent objectives. Due to his lacking skill in this knowledge area, Yokai had missed out on the fact that his daughter could have been rescued at all. He ended up focusing his attention purely on the revenge aspect of his scope statement.

At this point, he had a decision. He could have stopped his revenge quest and focused on rescuing his daughter. Instead, because he did not verify his scope, he fought with Hiro and the team which was a further waste of time and energy.

Recipe for Disaster: Inability to Control Scope (5.5)

Yokai Victory
Image Source: Big Hero 6

Despite all of the setbacks, interruptions, and distractions, the overall plan was successful. Yokai had Krei in his grasp – literally. It would have been only a few more seconds and Yokai could have succeeded. Granted, there may not have been time to gloat or savor the revenge – but the project could have been completed successfully. By throwing Krei into the portal, the project could have been called a success.

Yokai Defeat
Image Source: Big Hero 6

Instead, Yokai decided to add the activity of destroying Hiro, Baymax and the team. This activity was completely out of the project scope and should not have been undertaken. Unfortunately, Yokai didn’t see it that way, wasted all his microbots, and was ultimately defeated.

Scope Management – For All Projects

Scope Management allows us to get our objectives into focus, define what we will achieve in our deliverables, and what constitutes victory. Then have an opportunity to verify your scope to ensure your activities align with your original objective. And throughout your project, you need to fiercely defend your scope or else it may expand rapidly beyond your control.

If our villain were more organized when setting the project into motion, there would have been fewer opportunities for him to deviate from the outlined activities and objective. He probably would have gotten away with it too. When your activities slip out of control and do not adhere to the scope that you’ve committed to, you’re going to waste a lot of energy and possibly miss your opportunity to be successful. This is a classic example of how a failure in Scope Management will lead to a messy and uncontrollable and failure of a project.

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