It happens to the best of us. It can derail high-level projects in the best companies. When scope creep shows its ugly head, we are forced to navigate those dreaded and turbulent waters. "Creep" can create a massive ripple effect that is real, that can extend way beyond that one project. It can have a domino effect on timelines, pipelines, and possibly a whole client base.
What is Scope Creep?
Scope creep is the result of a change in requirements, client indecision, not setting and developing concrete deliverables as the first step in every project. It usually sounds something like this from the project manager's perspective: this wasn't part of the original request, this is a major increase in budget or timeline. Basically, the project's scope has increased or altered and everything is ruined. Just kidding. Kind of.
Here are some strategies that will help you navigate the dreaded scope creep:
1. Define from the Get-Go
One of the main causes of scope creep is misunderstanding or miscommunication. It's vital to define and agree upon the parameters of a project prior to starting it. If you have any doubts, put it in writing and agree upon it. This will undoubtedly save you time and headaches in the future. After all, we all know what assuming does...
2. Study the Playbook
The main line of defense is attentive project management. Making sure you have someone manning that ship is crucial. If you are well-versed in the requirements, you should be able to identify aspects of the project that may be vulnerable to creep. Address them early on and keep a close eye on them.
3. Install a Feedback Process
Create a process that allows for project changes. It's natural that changes will need to occur. Whether it develops into scope creep will depend on if the changes are handled as a controlled burn or a wildfire.
4. Break it Down
Smaller projects are more likely to succeed. As such, it's always a good idea to break down large projects into smaller parts to keep them from getting away from you.
5. Be Fair
It's common that in the early stage of a relationship, one wants to impress the other side. But that doesn't mean you have to accept every request thrown at you in order to satisfy your client. It won't end well, trust us. It's not feasible for you to keep that up for the whole relationship. Eventually either the quality of work will be sacrificed, or your revenue will.
6. Know When to Hang Up
You hang up first. No, you hang up first! That could go on forever. The same can be said about revision creep. You can keep revising and perfecting until you're blue in the face, but you have to know the point of no return. Eventually, there's not enough added value to justify the added cost of additional revisions.
7. Log Everything
Keeping detailed records of changes as they come is a great way from keeping the project from developing a mind of its own. Track any additions or subtractions to the project and keep the client in the loop through each phase.
8. Defense is the Best Offense
We know that scope creep is natural. As a project progresses, the project needs inevitably the project will change. It's not abnormal for an end result to be different from the initial request.
However, just because it's natural doesn't mean it's a good idea to let it run amok. Weeds are a natural part of foliage but it'll still choke out the most beautiful garden if left unattended.
The key to managing scope creep is having preventative strategies in place. After all, defense wins championships.