Creepy Scope Creep

Scope Creep: The natural tendency of the client, as well as project team members, to try to improve the project’s output as the project progresses. Portny et al, 2008, p. 346.

It’s hard to imagine a project that hasn’t fallen under the spell of scope creep. It always starts out as an easy process, define the project, create a statement of work, and get to it. The reality is that the client or stakeholders keep coming back with additions, changes, deletions – you name it.

I’ve experienced scope creep on almost every project I’ve worked with. The project I’m currently working on, an expense management software implementation, is certainly no exception. This project is already daunting. We are rolling out a new software process and have to train thousands of employees on the new system. This project already has a very aggressive schedule – just a few months before rolling out the software to the pilot groups, then additional training for the rest of the employees.

A few months ago, several managers decided that we needed to add a new pilot group to our process. And, best of all, we had to push up the pilot for this group by four months and accomplish the pilot over the summer. Not only did this effect the training schedule, but also the configuration of the software, the implementation of the software, etc. Of course, this wasn’t included in the initial budget process, so there are no funds for additional training.

Our team went into both panic and production mode. We made several requests to rethink the addition of this pilot group, but to no avail. Eventually, we had to redirect resources to develop training and production for this pilot.

While it was an incredibly challenging and stressful experience, there were some positives. We were able to produce some quality training, and that training provided a foundation that we hadn’t considered using in the initial project. We also learned a great deal about managing our people resources, and the stresses placed upon them. While this phase of the project was especially stressful, it provided valuable information for the next phase, which will be equally challenging and fast-paced. We learned how to better establish expectations for training in a global environment.

There are always positive and negatives with any project, but I think the most important lesson to learn from this process is to respect the staffing resources. In retrospect, I believe it’s important to be willing to discuss the original project scope and the deliverables and make an effort to eliminate the dreaded scope creep. While I think it’s great to have a “can-do” attitude, a project manager sometimes has to be the one person to negotiate or enforce the original scope. It’s not easy to be the enforcer, but sometimes that’s what the project manager needs to do.



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


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