5 Ways to Manage Scope Creep

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I encourage you to think of your company’s marketing strategy like a conversation you might have with a client regarding sales or a new project. Over the years I’ve learned that if you lose control of the discussion’s scope, or take the topic off on tangents, then it’s difficult to regain your client’s interest or attention.

You may not realize this, but marketing is a battle and when left unfocused it can get easily get off track. How many have seen the 1998 HBO film Pentagon Wars? I’d bet not that many of you, but I do recommend watching this brief synopsis if you have a few minutes.

The film is a parody of the Pentagon’s creation of the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. What starts out in scope to be a lightly armored, fast personnel carrier, ends up being a vehicle much more like a tank that is slow, heavily armored, and doesn’t really carry all that many personnel. Budgets skyrocket, decades pass, hilarity ensues.

Many of you are probably pretty familiar with the concept of “scope creep”. Although not funny at the time, I’m sure we all look back and can’t help but laugh at what you went through during those dark times.

Project management is a large portion of my job. And no matter the quantity or importance of the projects you influence on a daily basis, project management of some form is part of all our jobs. Whether you have a client or a boss, getting tasks done right, on time and with just the right amount of resources will benefit us all. So here are five tips to help you fight off “scope creep” and keep the scope of your projects on track.

 

1)    Ensure everyone agrees to the project scope from the start. And make sure all the relevant stakeholders are aware of the scope and have been given an opportunity to weigh in. Many projects have been delayed because a VP or president wasn’t aware of the project scope and have their own ideas as to how it should go.

 

2)    Avoid “I’ll know it when I see it”. As soon as you hear those words, it’s a sign of a potential disaster. Mitigate this by kicking into accelerated communication mode. Piece the project into smaller chunks and communicate progress/status at every opportunity.

 

3)    Projects change. No getting away from it. And most of the time there is a certain amount of tolerance planned into the project.  But don’t be afraid to voice your concerns if it occurs often. Letting them know where communication can be improved and what you’ll do to ensure it happens. And remember that the offender probably didn’t set out to make your day a bad one.

 

4)    Conduct reviews of your projects. Take a moment to chat with your colleagues/boss/client about the good and bad parts of a completed project. I prefer forcing everyone come up with three things to keep, three things to improve, but there are several tools out there. Even if you’re not a team leader, I can’t imagine a boss being disappointed with you analyzing ways a project you worked on could go better.

 

5)    Learn to recognize it. This mostly will come from experience and potentially some book learning, but developing a keen eye, realizing when it’s coming, and ways to avoid or mitigate the fallout will serve you well, even if you’re not a project manager.

 

There is so much to this topic, not nearly enough could be covered here. I’d love to hear some of your tips to avoiding scope creep.