When projects Creep up on you without warning

As a project manager, you have to plan for as many variables as you can foresee. The problem is that even though you are a project manager, you cannot see the future. Since the future is always a mystery no matter how much you plan for it the term scope creep becomes your enemy and you need to know your enemy. “Project managers have been plagued by scope creep since the dawn of project management. Managing scope creep in project management is a challenging job that needs clearly defined, documented and controlled specifications. Scope creep – also known as feature creep, focus creep, creeping functionality and kitchen-sink syndrome – can sneak up, morph and destroy a project” (University Alliance, N.D.).
When I was a functional trainer for one of my other companies I was tasked with leading a few projects in development. One project in particular that I was tasked with was to develop a training that updated and replaced our old new hire onboarding curriculum for all those who were promoted to our department. This was fairly simple because all normal rules applied and there was not much to redo it was more of an update or so I thought. Only a few hours into the project and my manager asked me to develop a web based training that the new hires could take that would help guide them when they first started, but my 1 week time line was the same. Then 1 day in to the project and I was asked to make another web based training that would be a follow up to the new hire training that would show and over view of our data bases that we work with and the time line was still one week. Then only one hour later I was asked to work with the SME from another department to develop the same for them as well and still that same time line. By the Friday of that week I had orders to complete the same task for three other departments and they all wanted to know why they couldn’t have it by Monday. I almost got written up for not accomplishing my tasks on time until I sat down with all of the team leads and explained what I was tasked to do and the time it takes. Apparently, none of the other managers knew I was asked to make trainings for the other teams accept my manager who was just trying to make everyone happy and did not discuss it with me first. After two meetings I received a one week extension and that was seriously the most stressful week of my career.
“Even when there’s a clearly defined project scope, you still have to beware of scope creep. This phenomenon generally tends to occur when new features are added to product designs that have already been approved, without providing equivalent increases in budget, time and/or resources” (University Alliance, N.D.).


4 thoughts on “When projects Creep up on you without warning

  1. A good story about how scope creep can just sneak up and create chaos on a project. Glad you were able to communicate to all the stakeholders and the strain that they were putting on you. It reminds me of several times in the military and the old saying the left hand never talked to the right hand. If we keep an open communication it is a better chance of a successful project.

  2. Excellent story about how scope creep is a gradual process that does not seem particularly worrisome until it creates a significant problem. Greer (2010) comments on how important the control phase is in project management; where, constant monitoring helps to mitigate issues early on in the project. As discussed, open communication is imperative as is some small measure of flexibility in schedule or resources. Your thoughts are appreciated.

    Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! Retrieved from http://michaelgreer.biz.

  3. Eric,
    In my profession, I have gone through similar experiences when I worked as a programmer, trainer, and teacher. I agree with the quotation, “Even when there’s a clearly defined project scope, you still have to beware of scope creep,” (University Alliance, n.d.). That’s true. We never know what the future is, but we may perceive it. “Avoiding scope creep is not possible. However, monitoring it, controlling it, and thereby reducing some of the pain is possible,” (Portny et al., 2008, p. 347). At all times, the project manager needs to be sure that the changes have been approved in writing by the client and representative for the senior management.
    Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
    University Alliance. (n.d.). Managing Scope Creep in Project Management. Retrieved from http://www.villanovau.com/resources/project-management/project-management-scope-creep/#.VDqEJygtWA0

  4. It sounds like in this example your company would have benefitted from creating a scope statement during the initial kickoff meeting. The scope statement should be the foundation of your project plan. It helps to make sure all key stakeholders are on the same page. Setting proper expectations with all stakeholders will reduces of misunderstandings arising later and possibly ruining the entire project. Its important that this scope statement be as detailed as possible to avoid leaving elements vague and open to interpretation. The project scope can also be used as a guide to evaluate change requests.


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