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Lessons Learned in Project Scope Creep

If causes of project failure were to get ranked the way health practitioners rank the extent of diseases, scope creep will definitely be a pandemic. It is a worldwide problem in projects which experts in project management are spending their energies to deal with.

During my 11 years experience in projects, I have come to realise that one of the commonest causes of scope creep arises from failure to thoroughly elicit the requirements of the deliverables from key stakeholders. This happens due to:

  1. Egos amongst the producers of the deliverable which dominate during planning and designing phase at the expense of humility to get views about the deliverables from the targeted users
  2. Untimely gathering of expectations of the Client about the project
  3. Incompetence amongst the producers of the deliverables

Many ( including me) have learned the hard way in addressing scope creep challenges in projects which I have been part of because of ignorance about the negative impacts that get created. It must be also be understood that project teams are a collection of teams with different backgrounds both professionally and academically. As such, it is imperative to establish a common ground amongst the project team members and the Client on basics of project management with a prime focus on instigators of project failure. Involving the Client assists in bringing appreciation that his/her decisions can also instigate project failure through scope creep.

As basics of project management are made known to the Client, Project Managers must still ensure that systems are put in place to address demands for scope changes which have been  brought to their attention. This can be made possible through the introduction of proper and transparent Change Control Boards  whose membership must be agreed upon with all key stakeholders. Sometimes, the Project Manager may encounter an impromptu scope change demand from the Client with very high influence upon the project. This demands calmness from the Project Manager who should not give a nod but wisely respond this way:

“I appreciate your desire for  such a significant scope change. It should be borne in mind that any scope change  introduces both time and cost changes in the project . Therefore, before you direct us to go ahead with the scope changes, I will have to work out the impact of the proposed changes to project cost and duration and share it with you. This will enable you to make a well-informed decision.”

Hiring competent human resources in any project is a must. There is need to have experienced staff who have proven capabilities of building the deliverables once and for all and not on trial and error basis. It is suicidal to entrust building of deliverables to amateurs in the trade. Instead, the Project Manager must ensure that the main builders of the deliverables have a proven track record of delivering.

From the discussion above, it is clear that dealing with scope creep requires very objective approaches whose focus must be towards achieving excellence in project delivery. The approaches must look at how the Project Manager can effectively manage the Client, end-user and the project team. Therefore, good stakeholder management throughout the project period will assist the Project Manager in addressing project scope creep.