Avoid That Creep

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    Our topic today has nothing to do with an eccentric or detestable person, happily. Although some project managers may not agree, a more prevalent pest to be avoided in projects is “scope creep”: additional scope that creeps in, without anyone in the project team noticing. Before you know it, there is an expectation that the project will indeed deliver this additional scope, leading to extra stress on your resources and your timeframes. At the request of students who have often asked for suggestions, here are four strategies I have found useful in the past to ‘avoid the creep’:

    1. Change Control
    Assuming the project scope has initially been agreed, the best option to avoid the dreaded scope creep is vigilant change control. This involves (a) keeping a change log for the project which is stored in the same repository as other important project plans; (b) timely assessments so that each Change Request is settled in a reasonable amount of time; and (c) discussing the change log with customers and performers at regular status meetings.

    2. How About ‘No’
    Sometimes it is difficult to perceive that a change has just been introduced into the project environment, as it may be framed like an innocent question. Example: “Surely this training can be translated and taught in French when we install the Morocco location?” Someone in the project team, probably guided by a lecture they heard on “Delight Your Customer”, answers “Yes, I’m sure we can manage”. Scope creep alert! Instead, the project manager might try jumping in, with some variation of ‘No’. Good examples: “I wish we could”; “I don’t think that’s in scope”; or (one of my favorites) “Our budget is already so stretched”.

    3. Train the Project Team
    There are a few steps and processes that your project team will have to be trained on during the project. Why not make “Change Control” part of another topic, and use this discussion to make them comfortable with the statement “We’ll be happy to do an impact assessment on that change request”?

    4. Better Late Than Never
    Maybe, and in spite of your best attempts, a crafty customer may get a project performer to agree to the extra work. We should remember that good project management is about progressively elaborating plans, and re-opening any items which now need to be discussed, even if they were previously closed. In the case of the extra work, we could say, for example: “I know Bob had been trying to accommodate this change but, regrettably, we don’t have the funding to do it. Let’s open a change request ”. Better to reset the customer’s expectations a little late than to make the project miss its agreed timeframe and budget. So let’s actively avoid that creep.


    For more resources, see the Library topic Project Management.