How do you counteract scope creep?

I received an interesting invitation from @Deltek_UK.


I replied that this deserved more than 140 characters on Twitter and I would write a blog about it. So here goes, the Rosenhead manifesto for counteracting scope creep:

1. Scope freeze – this is a simple process of having a rule; if you want to change the scope of a project then firstly approach the project manager. Explain the change you require and then call a meeting of key stakeholders. This should include the sponsor and steering committee, if you have one. Put your case to them. If they agree, then the change is made, if not, abandoned. However, try and get a group into a room on the same day….

2. Follow the recent PMI advice of going back to basics. I quote from report, Capturing the Value of Project Management that organisations “need go back to basics.” The detail of the report is too long to capture in total however there are 2 elements below which would make a significant contribution to preventing scope creep:

• having actively engaged executive sponsors
• using standardised project management practices throughout the organisation

Both, in my view would make a difference alongside many of the other suggestions. Do read the report from PMI.

3. My next point links to the first bullet point. As co-write of Strategies for Project Sponsorship I feel it a must to point out that sponsors are, in the main, not trained. I have just come back from a trip abroad where I worked with a group of professional scientist. To a person, they all complained that the sponsor kept changing the scope. The week before, I was with a group and the same thing. Training of sponsors can make a big impact on this area. If you do not train your sponsors, you are inviting risk upon risk into the project

4. Project managers should keep a log of all changes to the project (note, not all changes are negative). This should be presented to the sponsor or steering group showing the number of changes and the impact

5. This is a difficult one but learn how to say no. Project management has some tools that can help:

• the business case and charter
• the risk log
• stakeholder management process
• the project plan
• the iron triangle

All of these (and more) can be used to help say no to someone who wants to impose a change on the project.

6. For project managers; learn how to develop your interpersonal skills; in other words know your strengths and weaknesses and build on the former and develop the latter. A good dose of assertiveness can go a long way.

7. Have an agreed change control process. This may be an oversimplification however, if there is a process in place then it can help protect the scope of the project alongside reducing project risks

Well, that is the Rosenhead manifesto for how to counteract scope creep. Thank you Deltek for the invitation.

My query dear reader is what are your suggestions?

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5 Responses to How do you counteract scope creep?

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  4. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. There’s legitimate and illegitimate creep. Legitimate creep is addressing real problems during execution or startup. Construction projects should allow 2% of the budget to cope with startup issues. Illegitimate creep is per the excellent article above. The process an org should adopt is a stage gate process. Before a release of major execution funds are spent, the design should be thoroughly reviewed by you with the stakeholders. That’s a stage gate. That’s where you decide on final changes and outline the change philosophy and process going forward. Now, development and research projects have a lot of change. They aren’t usually spending lots of money on materials and equipment, so the tolerance for change is higher. Document when you think there could be a change and when the change is executed.

    • Ron Rosenhead says:

      Mark, firstly apologies. Your comments were stuck in the trash in my email and I have just sorted through them….

      I have no issue with what you say and I like your legitimate/illegitimate concept. Stage gates are really interesting as many companies do not have them. As for release of funds being based on achievement – I wish. The whole concept of change control does not go down very well with some clients. Culture plays its part and i only wish companies carried out your suggestions.

      Apologies again Mark and many thanks for commenting.

      Ron Rosenhead

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