Did you ever wash dishes?
Remember the moment when the sink couldn’t keep up with flushing down the water coming out of the tab?
That’s Scope Creep in everyday reality.
A moment when you put more than you can physically process.
This is how you get the traffic jam on the road. Or how you get yourself injured when you try to carry more than you can handle.
That’s pretty much how Scope Creep looks like in reality.
Based on PMI Report, 68% of poorly managed projects experience Scope Creep.
68% of projects
that are poorly managed, experience Scope Creep.
Hold on and let it sink slowly.
It’s an almost 70% project failure rate caused by demands that are higher than what people can process in a given time, budget or caused by simply not reaching the original goal of a project.
This makes Scope Creep one of the best-known causes of the big project fails.
But the interesting thing is, apparently, it has a lot to do with human nature.
We are almost always too optimistic in plans and we are too self-confident with our experience, which often makes us terrible in predictions and organization.
We should be more realistic instead. In other words, we need much more experience than we think is needed.
As the real experience will never ask you to predict.
It will ask you to plan things precisely.
This is what we will learn in this post.
What is Scope in project management?
Let’s start from the basics.
A “scope” is a document of what needs to be done in order to deliver the end result.
Base on this scope, project management prepares the schedule, budget, and resources, together with the people involved in the execution.
Every task should have a calculated time frame (with additional time for the unpredicted delay) and cost calculation (with the extra cost in case of unexpected obstacles).
After that, people can start the execution step by step, up until the delivery.
If there are no additional demands, it’s quite normal for the project to meet the deadline, or be ready even before.
But unfortunately, this is natural only for a small bit of the project management world.
As we mentioned, 70% does many things wrong.
And we have the luck to learn something from them today.
How To Plan To Avoid Scope Creep
Set realistic expectations
There is nothing more annoying than a visioner with no idea how things work.
One of the biggest nightmares of people working on the project is astronomic expectations.
Working with a visioner trying to push things just because he claims to know better or feels it can be done faster, cheaper, whatever, is a waste of time.
But it is also a fault of sales and project management trying to push for whatever the client comes up with, in order to not lose him, with no previous consultancy with the developer.
Make no mistake. Client needs are the most important and we work to fulfill them, first of all.
Which means we do whatever there is to be done to deliver the best end results.
Which also means, it may have nothing to do with what the client wants personally.
This is why we have to educate him, as
his “needs” may not be the same as his “wants”.
If you are a client, just say what you need, step back and enjoy the work done by professionals, as we advise you to:
Talk to the real professionals
Do you go to the doctor to tell him what to do?
Imagine yourself in the operation room.
You are laying on the surgery bed, half-conscious, and there is a doctor with a white mask covering his face. He bends over with a scalpel in his hand, look at your eyes, smile and ask:
What should I do now, sir? Just mind that it’s not my fault if I fail. You wanted it.
This is pretty much how your project looks like in the hands of non-professionals.
They expect you to tell them what to do, while they should be the ones telling you that.
Like with the doctor, you expect him to know how to use this scalpel, examine you, find the problem, and choose the best way of treatment possible. That’s his profession.
And other professions should work the same way.
Agencies should work like doctors. They should know exactly what to do.
They should examine what you need, find the best way possible, and be able to convince you to do so.
They are professionals here. As long as you have no knowledge or experience in their field, they should take you by the hand and guide you thru.
Take the example of a really good restaurant and the “oriental” restaurant.
The “oriental” restaurant is ready to give you EVERYTHING YOU MAY WANT, which means nothing good in particular, so you end up completely confused having a hundred different options.
But the really good restaurant is very selective about the dishes, and the kitchen serves only WHAT THEY CONSIDER IS BEST.
This is a professional suggestion.
They have been working things out and gaining experience thru most of their lives, and now you are about to get what is best.
No amateur can do that.
It’s natural for people to make promises, especially when they face the fear of loss.
Be careful when the agency is ready to do almost everything you want, and agree on everything you say.
Remember that the Scope Creep is caused mostly by a human factor.
If someone is agreeing on too many things without specific deadline changes or budget updates, you should turn on the emergency light in your head, and demand new calculations.
Getting something extra within the same budget may be tempting, but the temptation is another human factor that causes failure.
If you will somehow get the work done, I guarantee you, the end cost will be way much higher, even if it’s not visible at the initial cost plan, or invoice.
Precision is the biggest enemy of Scope Creep.
The more precise you are, the less space there is to make a mistake.
Demand precision. Ask for the short explanation of every single step there is to make.
In the end, the scope should be like a story, in which you clearly see what’s happening, how, and why.
Keep changes official
Prepare the document as a “change request”.
The agency you hired will have to adapt to this document and will have to actually calculate these changes for real.
It will keep you safe from sentences like:
“We didn’t meet the deadline, sir, as you had some special requests. It’s not our fault.”
Later you will get some weak explanation, that everything went wrong, because of the change and unexpected obstacles it caused.
Don’t fall into this trap. Demand the official confirmation and revision of costs and deadlines.
Determine the impact of change
These are some questions you should ask the agency before making a change:
- Is change bringing something new to our contract?
- Is everything from our initial contract still possible to execute?
- How does my change will affect the end result?
- What will be the difference between the first plan and the new plan?
Don’t wait until the end to discover the answers.
That’s another reason why you need a real professional to work with.
They should be able to explain how a small thing will affect the bigger picture.
Ask for precise information on how the project and the end result will change the user experience.
Again, being extremely specific is mandatory. Ask what, how, why, whatever is needed. Make sure there are no surprises at the end.
Keep an eye on the work performance
Watch the performance from the beginning.
Do expectations meet reality?
If something seems wrong, you may want to make changes, and you better do that in the early stages where most of the things are still possible with no need to rob the bank.
The further the project goes, the harder it is to make changes or keep it in the realistic budget.
While building your next scope of work, consider the fact that the human brain works differently in a different context.
Someone with a desperate need to get you as a client will offer a lot for less, and it’s tempting, but far from being a good choice, especially in case of big, ambitious jobs.
To avoid Scope Creep, simply choose the professionals and always be demanding.
You pay for it.
If the agency really wants you as a client, they don’t take money only. They take your demands as well and first of all.
Money is just a wedding ring, as a sign of willingness to face challenges, problems, for good, for bad, to the end, together.