The project crept forward, very slowly – because of the changes!

After one week:
• several small additions to the project
• no reduction in tasks!

After two weeks:
• several more small changes are added and one possible major change – waiting for senior managers to make a decision!
• no reductions in tasks!

After 4 weeks:
• major addition – still no decision from senior, though work started work on it!

Project creep – does it happen to you or your projects?

What we see above is fictitious BUT it is an example of what many people tell us happens – project creep; usually adding to the project additional elements which can challenge the scope, delivery date or quality. We always suggest that project managers identify what is included and what is excluded in the project. We even ask that they document this on the project initiation document This is an essential process for the project manager helping them to keep to the overall scope as well as using it to point out that any changes are outside of the scope and should go through a rigorous change control process.

One thing I always address on our project management courses is the need for project managers to have some discipline! Why? On several occasions we have facilitated workshops where the end result includes a clear project scope. Several weeks later we have discovered that the project manager, or team are working on an aspect that is out of scope ”because we thought it would be useful”…or, “we were asked to, don’t really know why.” These are a few comments we have received.

Project managers need to have the discipline to prevent scope creep.

What can be done to prevent creep?

Try some (or more) of these:

• ensure you scope out what is included and what should be excluded in your projects. Get it signed off by the project sponsor
• spend time really researching what the client actually wants v what they can actually have in the time given and with the given budget
• accept that scope creep will happen and have a rigorous change control process that prevents project creep
• recognise that sometimes changes have to be made for ‘political reasons.’ If this is the case, it is even more important to ensure simple change control processes are adhered to
• educate senior managers; sponsors or project boards (or both). Suggest that you discuss how changes will be managed especially those outside of scope and document the process. Do this at the start of the project
• use the risk register. If the change is foisted upon you then if it is a risk for the project put this onto the risk register and point it point to senior managers (sponsor or project board members)
• be assertive and put your head above the parapet – yes, times are tough however if you don’t put your head above the parapet now, imagine the impact later on when the project will not meet delivery date or budget or quality!

It is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure scope creep is managed and managed now. If not, you will need to face the consequences later on!

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