All project managers are familiar with scope creep, they’re the little things that people – whether they’re your clients, stakeholders, or friendly and persuasive team members, request that inject more work into the project.
As a manager, you’re often the one responsible for protecting your project from becoming out of scope, and making sure your deliverables are timely and within your cost allowance. Here are 5 tips for preventing scope creep to help keep your project on track and delivered on time and on budget:
Define the scope of your project
The first step is to define the scope of the project from start to finish. During this process it’s important to discuss what tasks are and are not part of the project. Make sure you come to an agreement after a thorough breakdown of the scope of the project, both with your team as well as your client, then baseline before the project starts. Depending on your industry, your scope outline may have include additional information, but here are some things to include in your statement:
- Your project objectives
- Tasks and time schedule
- Definition and explanation of out of scope work
Your team should be briefed/aware of the entire scope of the project before any work begins. This will cover all the work involved in creating the deliverables and the processes used to create them.
Log the changes and rebaseline
Any changes to the scope need to be documented and evaluated. Before they are approved, you’ll need to figure out which ways they’ll affect the scope of your projects. The change(s) in question may have to be put on hold, or it may cause other tasks to be put on hold. In some cases, you may need to create a “change of scope” document with relevant pricing or timeline adjustments.
Changes are pretty common, but it’s when they are not properly controlled that it leads to trouble. Most projects that fail begin to fail in this area, where they don’t take control of changes and revise the schedule and project plan. After the customer has agreed to accept a change of scope proposal, move swiftly to make it happen.
Make requests when necessary
After changes have been approved, some find it difficult to go back and request additional funding or resources to make those changes happen. Many project managers think they have to take a hit for the sake of their client’s satisfaction, but for the sake of your project, it’s necessary to make appropriate changes in the budget as well.
Consider the time it’s taking to hear new change requests, log those changes, pause work, discuss it with your team, and then rebaseline. All that time is already out of the scope of your project and doesn’t include the additional work or changes being added to the project. For the sake of your success, it should be made clear at the beginning that changes proposed once work on the project has started will require additional funding. This is only fair, and will make your clients and stakeholder think carefully before they request changes.
Watch for signs
During the project, look for signs that things aren’t going smoothly or if a team member gets stuck and needs help. You should keep an eye or for signs of “extra tasks” being added and worked on without going through the proper change requests process.
One sign to look for is if things seem a little too quiet, like people are working but you’re not really hearing much feedback and everything is always “ok” without much detail. You can ask your team members more specific, pointed questions about their progress, or simply jump to asking if anyone is caught on a snag in their work and needs help.
We’ve all heard them, and we’ve all fallen into them, but these traps are often what lead to projects falling out of scope. Examples of scope pitfalls:
- While you’re doing that, could you please…
- This won’t take long, but can you…
- All you have to do is…
Though these lines sound innocent enough, it can lead to bottlenecking if you (or any one person) on your team is having to take on more tasks than they should. Learn to identify these traps when they come up will help you stay hyperfocused on the tasks at hand.
Uncontrolled scope is one of the leading reasons why projects don’t come out on time or on budget. Using these tips, you can anticipate the different ways scope creep happens, stay aware of each stage of your project, and know what to do when you see these signs.