An Incomplete List of Why Scope Creep Happens (and How Project Management Can Help)

Filed under Becoming a PM, Lessons Learned | Posted by PMStudent

It’s not so much scope creep because there was never a scope baseline established in the first place. So instead scope was being defined as the project evolved.

  • Potential antidote: a charter; a statement of work; a memorandum of understanding: something in writing! Any sort of document that spells out what the project will ultimately deliver (aka the deliverables) at the beginning of the project.
  • Potential antidote: a change control process that formalizes project change requests.

“Ghost” stakeholders who weren’t visible or obvious at the beginning of the project appear later on and start adding new requirements.

  • Potential antidote: a stakeholder analysis undertaken at the beginning of the project to identify all of the stakeholders.
  • Potential antidote: get in the habit of asking throughout the project “Is there anyone else who needs to know about or approve this?”
  • Potential antidote: a strong sponsor or other senior manager who intervenes when this happens.
  • Potential antidote: a change control process that formalizes project change requests.

A main decision-maker who also controls the purse strings (a sponsor) does not exist or is not obvious or visible to you.

  • Potential antidote: a stakeholder analysis undertaken at the beginning of the project to identify your sponsor. Who’s footing the bill for this project? Who can pull your funding at any point in time? Who can give you more funds if needed?
  • Potential antidote: a charter; a statement of work; a memorandum of understanding: something in writing! A document that spells out the deliverables at the beginning of the project.

There were no deadlines set up at the beginning of the project so the work just continues to expand and linger on almost indefinitely.

  • Potential antidote: a charter; a statement of work; a memorandum of understanding: something in writing! A document that spells out the deliverables at the beginning of the project.
  • Potential antidote: a list of milestones and their due dates (usually included in a charter).
  • Potential antidote: a change control process that formalizes project change requests.

Customers keep on adding requirements as the project evolves.

  • Potential antidote: a charter; a statement of work; a memorandum of understanding: something in writing! A document that spells out the deliverables at the beginning of the project.
  • Potential antidote: a change control process that formalizes project change requests.
  • Potential antidote: a strong sponsor or other senior manager who intervenes when this happens.
  • Potential antidote: if you have a culture that supports agile project management or rapid prototyping, this may not be as big a problem.

Endless rounds of revisions, edits, and “tweaks,” resulting in added work and added time on the schedule.

  • Potential antidote: a change control process that formalizes project change requests, including an increase in the number of rounds of revisions than were originally planned for.
  • Potential antidote: a strong sponsor or other senior manager who intervenes when this happens.
  • Potential antidote: a detailed project plan that lays out the expected number of revisions.

Project manager is uncomfortable resisting organizational pressures.

  • Potential antidote: a document that identifies project team members and designates a project manager, made available to the larger stakeholder community.
  • Potential antidote: the PM uses his/her emotional intelligence to effectively communicate with key stakeholders.
  • Potential antidote: a strong sponsor or other senior manager who advocates on behalf of the project manager and shores up the PM’s authority.

Unexpected technical, operational, or organizational obstacles crop up, leading to an increase in scope or time.

  • Potential antidote: a risk analysis done upfront to tease out and anticipate potential obstacles in advance and plan for mitigating them.
  • Potential antidote: a change control process that formalizes project change requests.
  • Potential antidote: if you have a culture that supports agile project management or rapid prototyping, this may not be as big a problem.

– About the Author

Janet DiVincenzo, M.A., CPLP, PMP has been an instructional designer and a project manager for over 20 years. Janet is currently an instructional designer in the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation at the University of California, Irvine. In this capacity, she coaches and assists UCI faculty in creating their online and hybrid classes. Prior to UCI, Janet worked in many organizations as an instructional designer, elearning designer, corporate trainer, and project manager, leading teams to develop technology and training solutions.

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