This is it. You are finally wrapping up all of your research and strategic planning for an important client. The heavy lifting is largely done, and you can see the finish line in sight. You close your laptop for the evening and eagerly await your meeting in the morning.
The next day you share all that you have outlined, and it seems that you have checked every box for a seamless sail into implementation. But, out of the blue comes an additional request that was never previously discussed. The client is asking for more to be done. You realize that this was not part of the original plan and project scope. However, you reluctantly add it to your to-do list, and right before your eyes, you are almost back at square one again. Sound familiar? If so, you have experienced scope creep.
What is scope creep?
And, why you want to avoid it at all costs.
The scope of a client project is the planned work and deliverables that are initially agreed upon. If you are working with a large team, this may be the focus of the project manager. But, if you are a small firm or solo consultant, you are likely also wearing the project management hat. So, you must understand what scope creep is so that you can guard against its impact.
Scope creep is when the work required for a project expands beyond what was initially planned. This can be intentional or unintentional. No matter how it occurs, it has a similar impact… DECREASED productivity.
Here is why scope creep is problematic.
One of the obvious problems that result from scope creep is the loss of valuable time. Expanding a project beyond what was initially planned takes more time and resources. That means you are doing more work for the same amount of money and expending time and resources that could be dedicated to other projects and tasks.
Scope creep is when the work required for a project expands beyond what was initially planned. No matter how it occurs, it results in…
This is definitely not what you planned.
Don’t feel too bad. It happens to the best of us. It’s even more likely when we haven’t made a concerted effort to avoid this change in plan or direction. Now, the question is how to handle it.
How to manage scope creep when it occurs.
Much of what causes scope creep centers around CLARITY and COMMUNICATION. When the project’s scope is not clear to the client, it can result in your inability to create limits and maintain boundaries. However, once scope creep has occurred, it is vital to clarify the work scope and communicate this to all involved.
Now, here comes the big decision you must make…
You have to decide what you can deliver AND are willing to honor. This is a complete judgment call. It is entirely up to you. If you don’t have the time or ability to do it, then politely explain your limitations. However, I want you to consider that even if it means taking a hit now, it can potentially result in a more significant win later. You have to decide which road to take but moving forward, always remember that prevention is key.
The best way to address scope creep is to try and prevent it at all costs. What does that mean? Clearly defining the scope of the work, setting clear expectations, and communicate, communicate, COMMUNICATE.