How Creepy Was That?

Our textbook describes a project’s scope, or parameters, as a definition of the end result or mission of a project. These end results usually include some sort of objective, milestone, or deliverable. A project statement is critical as it makes all parties aware of the objective of a project. Project statements are often plagued by scope creep. Scope creep is the tendency for the project scope to expand over time due to changing requirements, specifications, and priorities. Avoiding scope creep is a major challenge for most Project Managers. However, many projects fall victim to scope creep. How does this happen? According to Project Smart, the main causes for scope creep are:

  • Poor Requirement Analysis – Clients are often unsure of what they want, which can lead to an unnecessary strain on resources
  • Lack of Change Control – Project managers should expect some form of scope creep to take place. To deal with this Project Managers can utilize a change control form and keep record of project modifications with a change log.
  • Gold PlatingThis is known as trying to supersede the scope of the project. People often believe that if they over deliver it will add value. To defeat gold plating, Project Managers should make sure team members are focusing on providing the client with what is requested in the scope and nothing more.

In summation, Project Managers should expect to encounter some sort of scope creep and develop a plan for dealing with it. Additionally, Project Managers should make sure the team is focused on delivering what is stated in the project scope.

As an undergraduate at Northern Illinois University, I obtained the opportunity to work on a team of Junior Consultants for YUM! Brands. The purpose of this project was to provide recommendations on how to improve disclosure to investors and communicate Yum’s global growth story more effectively. During this six-month project, the team was often guilty of scope creep. Being six eager undergrads, we constantly tried to gold plate the project scope. We continuously looked for ways to provide the client with more than what they asked for, this often lead to useless discussions and wasting time and energy on items that did not make the final deliverable. Fortunately for us, our Project Manager would often ask, is this part of the project’s scope? Most of the time the item being discussed was irrelevant and we moved on to more pressing matters. In my personal opinion, I believe it is easy to try to overachieve when you are working on a project that you are very excited about, but this often leads to deliverables that are not focused.

In your previous professional and educational experiences, have you dealt with scope creep, and if so how did you overcome this? How would you deal with a client that is pushing the boundaries of a project statement?


4 thoughts on “How Creepy Was That?

  1. Great post, thank you. I feel that projects at our company have definitely included ‘Gold Plating’ but I was never sure of the formal term prior to reading this. Your post made me think about some recent projects I have been involved in that had Poor Requirement Analysis as well. I feel our company, especially with IT requests, is more likely to contact the PMO and start the project process in motion prior to really deciding on what the objective or scope of the project is. We are so eager to ‘start working’ on the project most of the time we have not really defined what a successful outcome looks like and we tend to think we can ‘figure that out in tandem with the PMO.’ It can put added pressure on the PMO to not only help manage the project, but really help develop the solution as well.
    When we do have a well-defined project scope, one of the things successful PMs have done in the past, similar to what you mention in your post, is to almost use the scope or goal of the project as the title or motto for every meeting re-cap. I found it helped keep the group focused on the tasks that directly affected the outcome of the project goal. If what was being discussed was outside the boundary of the statement, the PM would quickly reel the group back to the goal or require a new project statement and charter, and potentially additional funding, to be created. The only negative to this method is that the business tends to include some very large and often vague initial project statements to feel as if they can easily incorporate additional items along the way. Again, the better PMs I have worked with are still able to eventually get a well-defined scope and goal prior to kick-off. Great post, thanks again.

  2. This post resonated with me based on my experience working with outside agencies. We’ve worked with several competent agencies over the years, but we were never able to hit a home run and we always felt disappointed in the results. However, the past couple years we have had more success by going through the details, sometimes in an excruciating fashion, of the scope of work. In the past, things that were undefined we would just try to figure out on the fly but we try to severely limit that practice now and in fact hold off on decision making until things do become defined. We also push back on the agency when items or details on our side are dependent on other items being completed, this has broken up a larger scope of works into several smaller phases. For example, what would have been one large SOW is now broken down into 5 smaller phases where we only issues POs for the first phase and don’t move to phase 2 until we are all absolutely confident in phase 1 and it is complete. This new process on our end has led to a productive agency dollar spend.

  3. Really enjoyed this post. I have worked on many projects where scope creep has occurred due to any number of bullets mentioned above. Especially when new at a job it is easy to try and gold plate everything to show people that you are capable and do high quality work. However, I think this is something that can be easily planned through higher expectations. If you know you tend to gold plate projects or events factor that into the time taken to complete the project and the cost associated with the project. I believe most projects do experience scope creep, but it isn’t something that we can’t avoid. It takes some hard thinking and detailed work to determine what the project is really trying to accomplish. Once you figure out the goal, back into the goal with deadlines throughout the project and tell yourself that these deadlines are non negotiable. Make sure every deadline is communicated with actions to help get you to each small deadline.

  4. Scope creep is very common issue for project and product managers. In my opinion, preventing scope creep is almost impossible. However, it is important to include several steps to manage scope creep during project action plan. Scope creep can be managed well by doing a thorough planning and subsequent monitoring to ensure that a given project is accomplished on target, on time, and on budget, without exceeding the specifications and resources allocated.
    I find that the large projects have a tendency to incorporate scope creep more than small projects. When managing large projects , the small details of one of the many facets of the project are easily overlooked. Large projects will involve several individuals with various different backgrounds and it will be easy for a project manager to understand all the details to manage a group of individuals with a diverse background. Also, large projects will require big investment and resources which will draw top management’s attention. More attention from the management will lead to more questions and suggestions which will turn into distractions and expansion of the scope and derail from the main goals. Also, top management always wants more results out of the projects and this means they will try to add more action items or smaller tasks to a large project scope leading to Scope creep.

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