Project teams usually view scope creep as something to be avoided, and they apply every technique available to keep their project within its defined parameters. For organizations that regularly struggle with scope creep, it’s frustrating to see the same problems repeated time and time again. But there are important lessons lurking within every initiative that ballooned outside its original plan, and you can use those experience to your advantage if you’re willing to take a candid look at your processes.
If scope creep is a recurring theme for your team, consider a few ways to reevaluate your efforts so you can boost your project results, improve stakeholder satisfaction and keep your projects on track.
Do you have the right people involved in setting project parameters?
You shouldn’t develop your project scope alone. Not only do members of your team need to participate to ensure the necessary resources and scheduling matters are addressed, but other people within the organization—and sometimes external stakeholders—should also be part of the process. Scope creep can occur if there isn’t sufficient input gathered, analyzed, and acted upon during the planning process. Take the time to review your strategy for creating project scopes and consider if a broader knowledgebase can help you produce better plans from the start.
Do you focus enough planning time on addressing end user concerns and requests?
Your plan development process could be causing scope creep if you don’t fully consider and incorporate the concerns and requests received from end users while the initiative is still in the planning phase. A project that creates ongoing problems for end users, such as workflow disruptions, obstacles to productivity, or bottlenecks in resource procurement or deployment, will almost surely encounter shifting parameters. When users raise issues about potential complications during the planning stage of a project, you can help avoid scope creep and improve customer satisfaction by acknowledging their concerns and adjusting the plan as appropriate to enable them to carry out their responsibilities efficiently.
Do you develop realistic budgets?
Accepting a budget that may not be sufficient to support all the deliverables in your plan sets the stage for scope creep. As funding dries up and people start to worry the project could be in trouble, stakeholders may feel the only way to get additional money approved is by expanding the scope and presenting the increases as justification for the request. Of course, this isn’t an effective fix if the new budget allocation covers the creep but still leaves the original project plan underfunded. Following a more rigorous budget planning methodology and educating executives and other sponsors on the real-world costs of delivering each project successfully is key to keeping funding-driven scope creep problems at bay.
Do you limit delays between a project’s approval and the launch of activities?
If there’s one thing a project delay is almost sure to do, it’s prompt people to take another look at the list of deliverables and see if they can squeeze in a few more. When you know your stakeholders or senior staff aren’t likely to leave well enough alone, it’s critical that you move the project into the active phase as soon after approval as possible. In those instances where you must wait before getting the initiative going, be clear with sponsors about the status: the project’s parameters are set and the current plan won’t be subject to another round of development. Strong communication and stakeholder engagement strategies are vital in these scenarios, and they will enable you to maintain supporters’ enthusiasm for the project without opening the door to new negotiations about goals.