My experience with ‘scope creep’

In a past position I was charged with re-vamping an hour and a half orientation for a small non-profit to make it more engaging and have it incorporate elements like knowledge checks and small group discussions.  The executive director and I sat down to outline and discuss the key components and the deadline and I began the work shortly thereafter.  Going forward we had bi-weekly check-ins where I presented status reports and I had the understanding that a proof-of-concept  would be required of me about half-way in.  It was at the half-way point, where I furnished the ED with storyboards and content outline, when the ED shared a new vision and expectations with me.  These elements were beyond the scope that we had initially discussed and would certainly cause me to miss the deadline and budget targets.  The ED wanted to add online material to supplement the face-to-face orientation and she wanted to incorporate  a mini-training on a software system that the employees would be required to use on the job.  This added so many layers and required more resources–both finance and human.  Looking back, I would have drafted a formal MOU and would have deferred to it every time the ED wanted to pile on demands or suggest additions that could not feasibly be completed in the allotted time.



7 thoughts on “My experience with ‘scope creep’

  1. I have been in a similar situation, but I had no control over the project or budget. I was just the lead on the project. When a teammate who did not have as much experience as I did gave our manager another way to do the project, the manager went with his suggestion. When the project was supposed to be done, the teammate informed the manager that it would be another 6 months to complete it. I was blamed for the delay. I eventually ended up going to the manager’s boss and requesting a change of manager. The new manager handled project managing much better and I was again made the lead on the project where the project was done on time and within budget.

  2. Your Executive Director (ED) who either had a serious case of “I have a great new idea-itis”, or could not say no to a high level stakeholder certainly put you into a sticky situation. Having a major course correction in a project, or perhaps divergence is a better term in this case, is for me not just a scope creep cause, it instead becomes a situation where a major re-scope of the project may be required.

    Often when supervisors continue to pile on requirements as the project moves through its phases, it is due to their failing to either develop a proper project plan, or they lack an understanding of the first and second degree effects that occur when a scope modification hits the project. Your after the fact idea regarding documenting the ED change through a formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) would have been a good one. When a supervisor does not provide a decent set of chartering documents, it would be wise to develop one independently and ensure that the supervisor and other key stakeholders buy in on your de facto project plan.

  3. When we think about it, the customer keeps on piling on the requirements or more requirements. If the SOW mentioned exactly what was needed and if the ID wanted to add more items than an adjustment would have been needed because of the triple constraint. People are always going to want more, but as an ID we also need to analysis what is really needed to make the training better and as a PM we need to watch out for these kids of scope creeps that sometimes occur.

  4. “Just one more thing…” is the topic this week and I think your example shows this perfectly. It doesn’t seem like your executive director considered how much additional time and the cost of the extra resources when asking you to add all the new ideas. That’s a good idea to have a written document outlining the requirements for the project, I’ll consider adding that for future projects I work on.

  5. This situation happens often within my organization and I agree with your approach. It is important to stick to the change management plan in situations like this. I’ve had this happen with senior management attempting to make major changes to the project and it is frowned upon to tell them that it can’t happen. Many of our projects end up having phased approaches to include elements that were beyond the initial project scope. To be successful, detailed project deliverables have to be defined and approved early on so there is no confusion in the process. Even with this, there is some scope creep expected but the goal is to eliminate most of it.

  6. Hi Asha,

    I did not see a post for EIDT 6510 so I decided to leave my welcome message as a comment on this post. I am excited to read your views on the weekly assignments and possibly gain a new perspective.

    Daniel J

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