Wednesday, December 5, 2012

“Scope Creep in a Job Poorly Done”

Week 6

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.


  1. Trevae,
    I can empathize with you as I faced a similar experience a few years ago when I began the first phase of building my house. I was faced with scope creep in a number of ways partly due to the ineffectiveness of the contractor/project manager. Before the project began, I ensured that I had all the necessary systems in place to facilitate a smooth start. I had signed off on the project agreement and was excited to see the project begin. My excitement was short lived as soon after the project was launched, the contractor approached me with a number of changes that needed to be made before the foundation could be laid. When the ideas for changes started evolving, it became so overwhelming to me, that I threaten to stop the project, as the changes were negatively impacting my budget. Additionally, the changes that were being made also affected the scheduling of the project. The contractor gave me the impression that he did not know what he was about and though he tried to justify the necessary changes and allay my fears, this did not sit too well with me. As you rightly said “project managers try to avoid the bureaucracy involved in changes and will thus resort to informal processes of handling requests for change” and this is exactly what I experienced (Golden, 2012). Eventually, I had to discontinue the services of that project manager and recruit a new team to complete my project. This course has taught me a lot and now that I am preparing to begin work on the second phase of the project, I am better equipped and prepared to manage and control any scope creep that may arise. I will definitely put a risk management strategy and contingency plan in place to deal with any scope creep that may arise (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008). I now have the skills to better manage and oversee this phase of the project and will be a lot more effective in overseeing and ensuring that the project runs according to plan.
    Golden, T. (2012). Scope creep in a job poorly done. Retrieved on December 7, 2012 from
    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.

    1. Hi Avoney

      you know another point that comes to mind that I did not address in my blog is that a calculating thief tricked me. The reason I say that is this; he might have created two contracts—one for us, and another for the home office. Henceforth, all money over the “real” cost, was his to keep. Building a house from the ground up takes much research about labor costs and materials: Knowing how much to pay for carpenters, plumbers, electricians, roofers, bricklayers, concrete pourers, etc.

      In last week's post, I listed a hyperlink you can go to find how much each of those occupations are paid to perform work in you town. I hope that that helps you to determine a better estimation about the price of labor. Knowledge is power, why not conduct our own resource allocation plan—we have the skills now. All you need now is to buy some of your own materials from Home Depot or Menards.

  2. Trevae - Excellent example and one I can totally relate to! I sold a home, downsized and decided to remodel an older townhome I purchased. I had worked with my contractor previously on a job and when we had a dispute, we were able to work out the problem and split the cost difference so I trusted him (which was a big deal for me), but for my new project, I kept making changes (scope creep) and failed to get the new cost in writing. For the most part, I got what I wanted, but the project got way out of hand and I spent FAR too much money and didn't control my budget. I joked that I paid for his kids college with all my changes. If I had to do all over again, I would definitely take better conrol of the project.

  3. Travae,
    Working with contractors and coming into scope creep can be extremely frustrating. My family has also had issues with contractors changing the plans and I think it is do mostly because a lot of contractors work off of the money that they have received so far. Only ordering part of the supplies is not an excuse for having to change the siding completely though. The siding choice should have been ordered in full even if it wasn't shipped in full. What a stressful time. I agree that there should be sign-off stages throughout the renovation project. This would allow you and the contractor to have guidelines to follow.

  4. Travae,

    What was the outcome of your situation?

    This does truly sound like a nightmare. It sort of reminds me of what I am going through with my moving company.

    1. Hi Paula

      The job was a complete nightmare after completion. My husband and I were young and did not know whom to call for our best interest. Hence, the contractor got away with that very lousy job—this happened years ago when African Americans were buying houses via FHA in Chicago, IL.

      In fact, we purchased the house three years after Dr. M. L. King’s march on Gage Park for Fair and Equal Housing for African Americans (1967). Gage Park is a neighborhood in Chicago’s Southwest side. Dr. King was assassinated almost a year after that.