PM Glossary #3 – Scope, Creep and You

The very thought of Scope Creep usually brings out the “billions of blue blistering barnacles” in everyone!

Interestingly, it is one of those few terms that the Project Management Team or the Sponsor (and Business) community would love to hate, but hate to admit that it afflicts them (or the project). This is one of the most common aspects that happen in almost all projects, the difference being in the magnitude of occurrence, visibility and acceptance.

Consider this: If you look at the other aspects of the Iron Triangle, then why haven’t we popularized Time and Cost Creep as well?

Well, primarily because:-

– There are universal standards of measurement for Time (your watch and calendar) and Cost (your wallet and/ or bank account), leaving out any chance for ambiguity or lack of consensus among stakeholders, but for Scope – this will always remain a grey area (however good the documentation, process, team and relations be!).

a) What is this Scope Creep?

Simply put – It is an unintentional (usually), unplanned and ad-hoc change in the requirements (or baseline to be more specific), that is thrust upon the project team, which subsequently goes on to have a negative impact on the project.

b) How does Scope Creep happen?

Lot of factors cause this, but the important ones are mostly:

Not involving the right audience from the start and lack of continuous engagement. Audience meaning Users who know what the requirements actually mean, what is needed on the ground and define the “usable” and “operating” parameters (functional and non functional)

Non standard approach towards defining Requirements (Requirements that are ambiguous, inconsistent, too high level, not aligned with Business case / Vision etc)

Lack of Interim reviews and playback sessions with key stakeholders (validating the understanding at key points in the life cycle and good communication helps minimize ad-hoc / unplanned requests)

Weak Sponsorship and / or lack of executive commitment / buyin and direction

Lack of adequate Change Control process (which increases the possibility of “i need this as well” from every nook and corner without proper impact analysis / overall review)

If you have got this right, then hopefully, scope creep will creep out of the workplace! 🙂


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