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How To Avoid Scope Creep: Tips for Project Managers

 MS MS

Published: 19th February 2021

Project managers find themselves facing more challenges than ever with new lockdowns and more virulent strains of coronavirus occurring, forcing people to work from home if they can and separating project teams. With everyone working in different environments, and under different constraints, this just adds to any of the communication issues that can all to easily occur in a project. The stress of working under these conditions will undoubtedly get to some members of your team, especially if they are working in a home environment where their children are trying to home learn. Taking time to check in with them is vital if you want to keep a close eye on your goals in a project and make sure to avoid scope creep.

Change happens, and this is never truer than on a project when the smallest thing can go wrong and require adjustments to be made. It is these incidents which, if not handled properly, can lead to scope creep and cause headaches for the project manager, regardless of their skills and experience. In this article, we will look at what you should be doing right now to avoid scope creep.

What is scope creep?

First, we need to make sure we know exactly what we are dealing with. Scope creep is when the requirements, visions or goals of the project grow beyond any original agreement that was made. When this happens, there is no longer such a clear definition to the final outcome of a project or what a successful project will look like, and the responsibilities involved can become a little fuzzy. This can either occus when many seemingly minor changes are added bit by bit to the project or one major change is added to the original brief.

Can scope creep be a good thing?

It is not the changes themselves that are the issue but the way in which they need to be dealt with. These new concepts need to be worked into your project plan, fitting in around other aspects and potentially moving timeframes around. This has the potential to disrupt your end goal, particularly in terms of any agreed deadlines. The later these requests are made, the more likely they are to result in work needing to be redone to accommodate them with can lead to frustration and failure to meet deadlines or deliver what is required..

Scope creep is bad for the project and can be bad for the morale of the whole team, so it is vital to keep on top of it and prevent it from getting out of hand. Here are some of the steps you can take:

How do I fix scope creep?

Know your goals

One of the first things to remember is that in order to keep your project in scope, you need to know exactly what your project goals are. When you know what your goal is, you can make more accurate assessments about the timeframes and budgets involved.

Documentation

One of the best things any project manager can do is learn how to properly set out the requirements of a project. This means, budgets, timelines and any expectations or responsibilities that there should be for stakeholders and team members. Talking about them is good, but you should make sure they are documented correctly as well.

There is plenty of great project management software out there that you can use to help make this task a much more efficient and easy to follow process.

Use your project management software

Having written out your project plan, you can use the same project management software to help you keep on top of the project. You can use it for communication, keeping everything accessible, it can help you keep on schedule and should a problem arise help you see where you might be able to divert resources in order to be able to cope with the unexpected.

Change control process

Of course, all the suggestions so far look at ways of avoiding scope creep. However, it is unlikely you will never have to deal with it.

Projects can run for weeks or even months, so it is highly unlikely that you won’t encounter some changes to your original plan. This is when having the right change control process in place can be vitally important. It will give you the chance to review and approve any reasonable changes. Your change control process offers you a workflow for making sure changes are properly laid out, reviewed and approved before further work begins.

Have a clear schedule

If you want to stick to the scope of your project and avoid scope creep, then task and time management are very important. It is, of course, easy to lose track of where you are up to with tasks, which is why you need to be able to see them broken down and scheduled properly.

If you want to avoid scope creep, then communication is key and is best done on a regular basis. This could be done as stand-up meetings or daily scrums; it doesn’t need to be a long catch up just make it a regular thing.

Communication

Communication really is the most important tool you have in your arsenal as a project manager, whether you are communicating with the rest of your team or with stakeholders how you do it can make all the difference. If you want to ensure that you are in control of the scope of your project, then you also need to learn how to speak to your stakeholders because sometimes in order to avoid scope creep you may need to say no and saying no to people who are in power is not an easy thing.

Protect against “Gold plating.”

Scope creep isn’t something that is always imposed on us. Gold plating is what occurs when an individual works on a task or product beyond the stage of diminishing returns – for example even when you have hit your brief you keep going in case you can add more value to it. This is risky and has the potential to miss the mark completely. Continuing to use up more time on this already finished project does not guarantee that you will end up with a better outcome.

Ensure that the whole team understand what success is in terms of your project, set your goals and stick to them. Sometimes scope creep can occur, but there are certainly things you can do to avoid it where possible.

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