How project managers can avoid scope creep

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 By Jack Nevison

Scope creep is the bane of all project managers. Scope creep includes any change to the  initial project plan, often made without going through proper channels. A single small adjustment may not have much impact on project success, but many small additions or alterations can quickly have a significant–and negative–impact on budget, schedule and resources.

To avoid scope creep, offers some tips that can help reduce unexpected additions:

  • Clearly communicate project goals with your team. All team members should have a firm understanding of project goals and limitations. Let the project team know ideas are welcome, but that any scope changes must first be presented to and approved by you. Clients might welcome the timely sharing of good ideas, and early notice allows for the possibility of more funding to implement them.
  • Focus on the end-goal. If a client makes a request that will add to the scope of a project, consider how a negative response might affect future contracts. It is often worth it to make adjustments for a client if that might generate more business in the future.
  • Have mitigation plans in place. PMs are responsible for identifying risks at the project's beginning. When risks become reality, they can add to scope creep. You should always set aside a portion of your project's budget to manage risks, both anticipated and unforeseen.But if too many client changes are made to a project, your risk budget may be exceeded.

Of course, the best way to avoid scope creep is to have a scope-change process defined before you start the project. It often requires real courage the first time you invoke this process, but over time, you and your client can learn to turn scope creep into healthy scope change.

You can improve your ability to manage scope creep with New Leaf's free white paper "Embracing the Dragon's Tail." Through our QPM™ series of estimating games, you can learn while you earn affordable and convenient PDUs for PMP® recertification. 

"PMI," PMP," and "PMBOK" are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.

"QPM" is a registered mark of New Leaf Project Management. All rights reserved.

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