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Mr Scope Creep – why projects go bad and possible solutions

Mr Scope Creep – why projects go bad and possible solutions Ralf a

If I ever catch that guy Mr Scope Creep I will hurt him. Seriously, projects are supposed to have a defined beginning and an end. They also are supposed to have a certain defined scope, timeline, and cost associated with them. That is until my old foe Mr Scope Creep enters the stage. In no time whatsoever the project can go over budget and time.

All-time favorite examples of this can be found at home and work. Take for instance trying to repair a quarter sized paint blemish in the bathroom. A 50 Dollar paint repair job can turn into a 2000 Dollar one in less than an afternoon: add updating a new toilet, the floor, cabinetry, mirror, and…paint. Beside the monetary impact, it can also cause significant marital stress.

At work we face very similar issues. You get a project that looked ok at first and then timelines and budget get totally blown out of the water. For the work related scope creep the following list may be of some help for you to not into that position in the first place:

  • The goal/ objective is too big. When goals are way too big from the get go very few projects will render a positive result in the end. It will also lead to another morale killer aka the never-done phenomenon.
  • The timeline is too aggressive or were sand bagged. Either extreme is not healthy. If it not possible from the get go that the project cannot be possibly completed in the time allotted for it then why bother starting in the first place. Too much time given up front typically leads to complacency.
  • There are no bench marks. This should be self-explanatory, but very often project teams do not think about putting benchmarks in place as to when key items should be checked and verified.
  • Perfectionists add content as the project goes on. There is a fine line between sloppiness and perfectionism. In the middle lies effectiveness. You do not want sloppiness, but perfectionism is not desirable either. Define this line of diminishing returns when your folks go overboard trying to make their project perfect.
  • There are no roles identified. Easy to dismiss the importance, but project and team structure is really important to your people. Identify roles early on preventing confusion and inactivity or finding out that more than one is working on the same task.
  • There is responsibility, but no authority. When teams and their members are not empowered to implement anything they are set out to do, no one wins.
  • There are not enough resources allotted for the project. Common sense is not common practice and therefore often the project’s time lines are often doomed from the get go and whoever thought would save any money is now slooowly paying for this condition every day that the project goes over its deadline. In the end this usually results in pretty much spending as much as if more resources had been in place from day one. Sigh.
  • There is no way to measure progress/ success. What does success look like and how will we measure it? It is one of the most important steps in setting up projects. What is the sense in beginning with anything if the team does not know what is important to reach in quality and quantity?
  • There is lack of clarity about the critical path of the project and escalation methods. Identifying what the critical components of a project are should also be clear to everyone working on the team. Some things may be fund and are easy to do, but they may not be important to do right this minute. Do the critical items when they are due. When they do not happen who and how will then escalate this through the organization?
  • The culture of the company does not support collaboration. I should have put this one at the top of the list. Your company and team culture can play a huge role in how effective the project team will be. Power play, politicking, and stonewalling are a sure fire way how projects can go downhill easily. Trust and morale go down and cost and time issues go up. Your leader-managers are hopefully cognizant of this law.

Scope creep consumes your nerves, time and many more other resources. It is anything but fun dealing with the aftermath of a steadily moving target. The above pre-flight check list may help you navigate through projects better. Perhaps you can mail this to your leader-managers helping you illustrate that you are dealing with a wide spread issue? Either way, clobber Mr Scope Creep over the head for me and do not let him win any ground. The best of luck to you.


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