029 – Stop the Scope Creep! Using Change Control to keep the monsters at bay
Controlling your project scope is one of the most important things we can do as project managers – but so easy to let slip. Don’t let Scope Creep sneak up on you! In this episode we talk about scope creep and discuss ways to keep your scope on track – and how to handle it if your scope needs to change.
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What is Scope Creep? [3:42]
Scope Creep is considered as the nemesis of the Project Manager. It refers to the uncontrolled growth of scope- like the BLOB! Project Managers find this “creepy” because the growth in scope can sneak past you if you are not on top of things, and it can grow little by little until it’s too late to stop it. Just like escalations, scope changes are just another part of project management. If we always made what we thought we were going to make, our jobs would be pointless. We’re here because we KNOW scope is going to change at some point.
But where we start to run into problems is when it is not managed. It must be controlled – and in the PMI world, we call this
Integrated Change Control. It’s integrated, because when you change the scope, it affects other important constraints. This includes cost and schedule, risk, quality, procurement contracts, etc. If there is more to deliver, it will take you longer and it will cost you more.
This is why just letting some additional scope creep in without understanding its impacts is bad. One common scope creep is “Gold Plating.” This is when you do something nice and out of scope to make the customer happy, but in the end will have a negative implication on the project. In most cases, scope creeps sounds like small favors that can be done in a few minutes, until they pile up and consume huge amounts of your time. Hence, it is important to stick to your span
of support, and document any out of scope requests.
Absolutes – When is it okay to allow scope creep? [13:14]
It is never okay to allow scope creep. If you’ve listened to our podcasts for a while, you’ll hear us say “it depends” a lot. We encourage you to question things that seem absolute and firm -because often aren’t. But here is an area where we will deal with an absolute.
There is never a good reason to allow uncontrolled scope change, and, that controlled change doesn’t have to be a grand ordeal for every single scope change. Some changes are minor, and you should have a way to handle small changes. But no matter what, you do need to document, communicate the change, and confirm the impacts to the other
project constraints to formalize it. Remember, we are documenting things to hold people accountable, so write down what you need to hold people accountable for. You never want to be in a position where the sponsor gave you a project to deliver, you deliver it, and they say, “Wait, what’s all this – that wasn’t in the scope I engaged you to deliver.”
Scope change is not evil. Uncontrolled scope change is. [17:08]
As a project manager when scope changes, you should not take it as a personal affront. It’s not your call to not change the scope – it’s your sponsors call. It’s your job to make sure that they are the ones to make the call – not you, and not a team member who wants to do a nice favor for someone.
Project Managers are here to help work get done – not necessarily to do the project they envisioned. We’re here to manage the chaos, that is ‘making a thing’ and helping our team members, sponsors and stakeholders understand what’s going on. Just a heads up to your sponsor “Hey, we’re gonna paint it green instead of red” is fine, as long as it’s documented.
Sometimes a sponsor may say, “Just do it,” which is fine, but as a PM you cannot let them say “just do it”, unless you get them to also acknowledge and sign-off on any impacts to scope, schedule, risk, quality, etc.
Key Probing Questions
● Are you doing anything in your project that is out of scope?
● Where in your project is scope not clear? And what is your plan to clarify it?
You may be in trouble if …
● Giving away scope as a favor without documenting it
● Your scope is not clear enough to allow you to control it – or at least have a plan to get it clear enough to control