According to Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008), “Scope Creep” is the natural tendency of the client, as well as project team members, to try to improve the project’s output as the project progresses.” I experienced scope creep when I had some renovations done to my house. I wanted siding, new kitchen and bathroom renovations. The contractor explained and wrote down via contract the deliverables, cost of supplies, performing renovations, and an estimated time it would take to complete the project/job. We agreed to all terms of getting the project completed.
However, within a week or so, the contractor approached to inform that the first siding we chose was unavailable, out of stock; therefore, he would need to remove the small portion already started on one side of the house for another color and style. I felt irate because as far as I was concerned, the contractor should have had all supplies needed, promised, and agreed upon before beginning work. Since work had begun, we agreed to adjustment (change) from the original plans to a more costly plan. Being only twenty years old and a first time homebuyer with no prior experience negotiating under the influence of Scope Creep, I agreed to revise the contract under the newer situation; it started a nightmare.
In retrospect, had I known then what I know today from this class about project management’s Scope Creep, I would have backed out of that contract considering all the risks involved. We paid the price in money, time, and quality. I am learning that scope creep could happen at the onset or at any time during the course of a project. In other words, scope creep happens during the initiation phase of the project management process and could continue as the project progresses toward closure. We had the opportunity to back off, but natural tendencies set in because we wanted the new improvements and our neighbors watched work started. I guess pride was involved too. Both my husband and I really desired/wanted the new kitchen and bath badly that we bought in and got well in over our heads and nerves. We became so upset about the cost, delays, and poor workmanship that led to misunderstanding between the contractor and us. Portny, et al. (2008) posits points I feel depict our situation quite well when they say:
- “Ensure the change is implemented properly, in our case it was not.
- Review all requested changes (either content or procedural changes).
- Identify all impacts the change might have on other projects.
- Translate these impacts into alterations of project performance, schedule, and cost, etc.”
Scope creep is sometimes unavoidable, according to Portny, et al (2008); however, the impact of the pain scope creep causes can be reduced if monitored and controlled. The following are examples of how to lessen the pain and misunderstandings caused by scope creep in the project management process:
- Include a change control system in every project plan.
- Insist that every project change is introduced by a change order that includes a description of the agreed-upon change together with any resulting changes in the plan, processes, budget, schedule, or deliverables.
- Require changes be approved in writing by the client as well as by a representative of senior management.
- Amend and update all project plans and schedules to reflect the change after the change order has been approved” (pp. 348 – 349).
With all this being said, I know that project managers will try to avoid the bureaucracy involved in changes and will thus resort to informal processes of handling requests for change; they go along with Scope Creep as a means of avoidance, but causes more anguish and pain by doing so.
Portny, S., Mantel, S., Meredith, J., Shafer, S., Sutton, M., & Kramer, B. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.