How to Prevent (Avoid) Scope Creep?

What is scope creep? It's such a weird word, right? I thought so too when I heard it for the first time. Well, in a nutshell, scope creep is when you start with five tasks on your to-do list and end up with 25. Let me give you an example of my own. Last week, we made a list of things that my boss wanted me to deliver, and thus the task list was born. Now, as the projects and tasks began, I started getting requests from other departments about things that were not in the original scope but were important to the overall strategy. The sales team wanted better collateral, and the customer service team wanted better templates, and even the boss himself kept adding on things that were not originally discussed. Within one month, my task list was out of control, and I had no idea where to focus. It seemed like there was so much to do, and it was all important immediately. Scope creep is when your stakeholders begin to add things to the project that were not agreed upon originally. You still have the same amount of time to get the job done, but now you have more stuff to do. So what happens if scope creep is not controlled quickly? Mayhem. We're talking about overdue tasks, spiraling budgets, and stuff that may never get done.

So what did I do to fix the problem? I set my priorities and I created a list of must-do tasks by certain dates. I communicated with my team about what they could expect from me by a certain date and put everything else into different phases. I mean, I started this project with a single stakeholder, but then one department pitched in, and then everyone started sending requests via email, and they would actually even drop by at my desk, and this includes sticking post-it notes to my computer. But, you have to set your priorities when it comes to the projects. Remember, the end goal is to let your stakeholders know what the original plan was and get them to stick to it. Also, don't try to accommodate everyone, because your projects may never get done. Here is a few more tips.

Causes of Scope Creep

There may be endless causes for scope creep to happen. Such as;

A vague or perplexing project scope definition: The sheer existence of a project scope does not mean that it is simple to understand or well-defined.  When stakeholders fail to comprehend their separate responsibilities and obligations for projects with unclear or inaccurate project scope, misalignment can occur.

Probability and Impact Matrix

One of the things I learned in my professional life was that it would never be possible to effectively manage the project by simply identifying the risks. Therefore, it is necessary not only to define the risks, but also to have an idea about the realization of these risks. If we can predict the probabilities of the risks and have an idea about the impact they will have if they do occur, we can see the problems that may arise during the life of the project, find the right answers to these risks and make rational decisions. 

Scope Creep in Project Management

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide defines scope creep as the uncontrolled expansion of product or project scope without adjustments to time, cost, and resources. For example, it could be a stakeholder asking for just one more thing to be done in the project that wasn't in the original charter or original project plan. Scope creep adds more requirements or activities for projects than were originally intended. Of course, projects often start with some uncertainty in the scope or delivery requirements. Clarifying that uncertainty is not the same as scope creep; that uncertainty should be accounted for in the project plan through estimate reserves or risks. The project team is aware of that uncertainty, and they can manage it. Scope creep occurs when there are new requirements or deliverables that were never envisioned as part of the project.

Schedule Network Diagram in Project Management

A project manager needs proper documents to assure the project's successful completion from idea to conclusion. Among these tools schedule charts are indispensable for projects. We'll start by establishing a project schedule network diagram.

Project Schedule Network Diagram

A project manager needs proper documents to assure the project's successful completion from idea to conclusion. Among these tools schedule charts are indispensable for projects. We'll start by establishing a project schedule network diagram.

Influence Diagram in Project Management

Basically, an influence diagram is a model represented by a graph in project management.  It is graph of how something gives rise to another thing  or in other words it shows how an outcome is caused by the actions of several factors. Another way to describe it is to say that it is a graphic picture of the connections among the variables in project management and their interdependence. 

Project Funding Requirements in the PMP Exam

Project managers must know their project's funding requirements in order to ensure their project stays on track and within budget.  In the cost baseline, the total funding requirement is the cost, including management reserves. In the period funding requirement, payments are made annually and quarterly. Project managers can develop a funding plan that caters to these requirements.

Resource Allocation Plan in Projects

Resource allocation is the process of identifying which best resources are going to be assigned to which task or project. Resource management and resources allocation helps to make sure that neither workers are overworked or underutilized. If it is necessary to, resources can be re-allocated to optimize current availability and project timelines. Capacity planning needs to happen hand-in-hand with the task at hand.

Conflict Management in Project Management

Conflict management is a tool in project management which is widely used for team performance domain and for;

Conflict Management Techniques

There are many different types of conflict management techniques. Below are a few that are often used in project management: 

  • Withdrawing
  • Smoothing
  • Compromising
  • Forcing
  • Collaborating

It's important to know the five different techniques because you'll be asked about this, and it's also nice to know the different five techniques so that you can use the one that's most appropriate at the right time.

The five techniques are forcing: 'I'm more powerful than you, I do what I want, I don't care what you feel.' It's a win-lose situation. There's a compromising where we both give up something to get half of what we asked for. It's a considered lose-lose situation. There's withdrawing where two people are arguing about something, I just don't want to hear about it, I just walk away. This is smoothing where one person says, 'All right, I'll give up this time, but you give up next time.' And it's a lose-win situation. And finally, there's collaborating or problem-solving where we try to get to the root of the problem and forge a win-win solution.

To demonstrate the difference between all five of those techniques, we'll give a simple example. And each technique works in different scenarios, so the example I give you, you obviously wouldn't use in certain situations, especially the last one, but let's just use it for an analogy. So, I have an orange or there's an orange in the middle of the table. I want it, you want the orange, we both want the orange, so we're fighting over the orange. I could say I'm bigger than you, I'm taking the orange, what are you going to do about it? That's forcing, it's the win-lose situation, I win, you lose, you have resentment towards me that's going to cause problems later on. There may be times that that situation is appropriate, probably not in the case of the orange, though. Alright, then there's compromising. You want the orange, I want the orange, fine, cut it in half, we each get half an orange. That's kind of a lose-lose, I wanted a whole orange, you wanted a whole orange, you only get half. So, that's not great, but in the orange situation, maybe that is appropriate, we'll see. Then there's withdrawing. I want the orange, you want the orange, hey, there's our boss, hey boss, Kelly is trying to steal my orange, or John is trying to steal my orange, the boss walks away. That's probably the appropriate situation if we're fighting over the orange, don't waste your time as a PM getting involved. Then there's smoothing. Oh, you want the orange, I want the orange, do you like oranges? I like oranges, that's great, we have something in common. Tell you what, I'll give you the orange this time, next time there's an orange, I get it. Is that fair? So, it's a lose-win situation, we're feeling better about each other, we know we have something in common, maybe helps for long-term solutions, but I lost out, I didn't get the orange I wanted. Lastly, there's collaborating or problem-solving. In this case, we ask the boss, 'Hey, can you solve this problem? We're fighting over an orange.' Obviously, you wouldn't do this in the case of an orange, but let's assume it's something more important than an orange. He'll come in and say, 'Oh, you like oranges, Kelly and John like oranges, something you have in common, that's wonderful.' John, why do you like oranges? And I say, 'Well, I've got this dessert I'm making at home, I need to zest the peel and use that to sprinkle on my dessert because I'm making this dessert that really needs an orange, and I didn't feel like going to the store, and it saves me a huge trip.' And he says to you, Kelly, 'So why do you like the orange? Do you like the zest too?' She goes, 'No, no, I just want fresh orange juice, I was just going to squeeze this and get all the pulp out of it and have a nice glass of fresh juiced orange.' So, he says, 'Great, John, you zest it, give the remains to Kelly, you'll juice it, and we can throw what's left in the garbage.' So, that was a win-win situation, we both got exactly what we wanted because we bothered to go down and problem-solve this.

So bottom line, you don't want to use collaboration on every single problem that comes up, every single conflict because it's not appropriate, it takes too much time. There are times when withdrawing is most appropriate, there's times when forcing is most appropriate, there's times when smoothing or compromising is most appropriate, and we need to recognize that there's five different techniques to use and use the right one in the right situation.

Okay, so overall, use whatever method is appropriate for the situation, but it seems that collaborating offers the best long-term solution. Exactly. And you can check out the description below and sign up for class if you like


1-Pmrace: I just finished reading your blog post on conflict management, and I must say it hit home for me. In my previous job, I encountered a situation that perfectly illustrated the importance of effective conflict resolution.

Picture this: I was part of a diverse team working on a tight deadline for a critical project. As the pressure mounted, our communication started to falter, and misunderstandings began cropping up. One day, a disagreement between two coworkers escalated into a heated argument during a team meeting. The tension was palpable, and it was clear that if left unaddressed this conflict could seriously jeopardize our project's success.

Thankfully, our team lead stepped in and facilitated a conversation. She created a safe space for both parties to express their perspectives and feelings without judgment. It turned out that the root of the issue was miscommunication and differing expectations. Through open dialogue and active listening we were able to find common ground, clarify misunderstandings, and develop a plan to move forward collaboratively.

What are some effective strategies you recommend for initiating a conversation between conflicting parties, especially when emotions are running high?

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