“Give an inch, take a mile.” It may not always be done in a malicious way, but our society has come to want more and more and more. When it comes to managing projects, it is no different.
As project managers, we see it all the time. Perhaps it’s multiple “small” tasks adding up or unrealistic expectations well beyond what was originally agreed upon. At the launch of a project, the scope of work is clearly defined—or at least should be in order to manage expectations and combat scope creep.
What is Scope Creep?
Scope creep refers to the changing of deliverables and demands over the course of the project. It’s often caused by stakeholders lack of clarity. Changing requirements throughout the course of the project, due to miscommunications or internal disagreements, causes:
- missed deadlines
- burn through budget
- deliverables not completed
- strained relationships
- overworked or stressed team
When requests and additions are being asked of your team, it’s easy to be a people pleaser. But in the end, it will only hurt your team.
What Causes Scope Creep?
Change is a way of life. While some change can be expected, and is oftentimes productive, altering the overall scope of the project can be detrimental. Know how to identify scope creep, so you can plan for it and nip it in the bud early. Below are some of the most notable reasons scope creep becomes an issue for teams.
It is important to be clear on deliverables from the start. Not clearly defining goals and deliverables early on will affect agreed-upon timelines, budgets, and expectations. Be sure to have a thorough agreement that outlines everything that is expected from your team. This agreement will serve as the scope of work, giving project managers more leverage when pitching new budgets and timelines for anything outside of the original scope.
Lack of Leadership
Leadership is vital to every project, but most importantly, in keeping the project moving forward as expected. As a project manager, it is your duty to address scope creep as it happens. By managing expectations in real-time, teams will be able to discuss and negotiate scope terms as changes occur.
Too Many Opinions
Are there too many cooks in the kitchen? Teams need to be clear on the direction of the project and come to a consensus on an outcome before delegating new tasks. If too many people are involved, it becomes difficult to make decisions and move forward productively. By having a main point of contact between stakeholders and the team executing the project, finalizing all decisions will be easier and the project will remain organized.
A lack of communication at any point in a project can be detrimental to the overall scope of work. When stakeholders are not able to clearly define their expectations and those expectations are not delivered to the team properly, the project will suffer. Not only that, but many people will also avoid confrontation and provide delayed feedback which will derail the project. Keep a consistent line of communication and set benchmarks in order to remain focused and on track.
Battling Scope Creep
Keep an eye open for each of these causes of scope creep and speak up early. It’s easier to stop a slow/small leak, and it can be impossible or damaging to try to patch up a large gash. Your best defense will be to be vigilantly observant and diligent about talking about anything that puts your team’s workload, timeline, and profits at risk.