Project Management 101: Scope Creep & How to Avoid It
So, you’re one of those people who’s not exactly a PMP and we get that. But the great thing about project management is that you don’t need your PMP to be a stellar project manager. Everyone is a project manager pretty much all the time.
We’re here to tell you that it can be totally awesome when you get a project done, successfully, on-time and on-budget. Too bad for you, but this rarely ever happens. But, it’s OK, it’s not always your fault. One of the biggest mistakes new project managers, and even experienced ones make is putting too much on their plate. By not defining the scope of the project, you leave yourself open to mistakes and have your project spiral out of control.
So let’s talk about scope. What is scope?
Well, there are actually two kinds of scope. They are known as project scope and product scope. Tons of idiots confuse these terms and now you wont be one of them. Excited?
Project scope is the part of project planning that involves determining and documenting a list of specific project goals, deliverable, tasks and deadlines. It’s horribly boring work but it must be done if you want a good reference from your boss/ a pat on the back.
To clearly communicate to people what the heck it is that you’re working on, you have to put together a type of documentation known as a scope statement, terms of reference or statement of work. It basically explains the limitations of the project, who’s doing what, and sets up procedures for how completed work will be verified and approved. This wonderful pile of paper basically helps the team stay on track as the project progresses. The kicker for most new project managers is when there needs to be changes made to the project( look out!) right in the middle of it. The better you lay down the law of the land when it comes to making changes in the scope, the better it will be for your team to seamlessly make changes.
The second type of scope is known as product scope. Product scope is simply everything required to complete the project. That’s it. It’s the technical specifications of the project. For example, if you’re an engineer or architect and you need to build a condo, you need to let the builders know the exact specifications of how to build the building. This includes things like, height, width, number of windows, rooms, toilets (super important) etc….
Most of the time, you’re not going to be the one who has to dream up these technical specifications (Wahoo!). You have to ask all the right questions to make sure that you’ve got them right.The project stakeholders should have all of the details for you so it’s your job to run meetings to make sure that everyone wants the same stuff. After you have all of the information, you plop it into your project scope statement.
So, now that you’re a genius at knowing the difference between product vs project management, you’re probably wondering what a creep is. Well, we all know what a creep is:
….But what is scope creep and how on Earth can a project get out of control even after so much horrendous, annoying and cringe-worthy amounts of planning?
Simply put, scope creep is daylight robbery. It’s when your stakeholders begin to add things to the project that were not agreed upon originally. You still have the same amount of time to get the job done but now you have more shit to do. What happens if scope creep is not controlled quickly? Mayhem and not the good kind. We’re talking about overdue tasks, spiraling budgets and something that may never get done AKA you FAIL.
So, how do you avoid this from happening?
We’ll tell you the straight-up truth that no one seems to acknowledge: You can’t. Scope creep will happen, but what matters is how you handle the situation. In our experience, there are two things that are key to controlling the mayhem that may ensue:
1. Setting your damn priorities. A lot of newbies get all confused about the slew of tasks that their stake holders want from them. The key here is that during the conversation with the higher powers that be, you have to figure out what’s most important to them in terms of deliverables and get it in writing. This way if they try to pull a fast one on you, you can say “Back up sister!” (snap, snap ,snap) and focus on the most important aspects of the project.
2. Always expect the creep. Creeps are everywhere so just get used to it. There’s this thing called an Implement Change Order form. A Change Order form will allow you to perform a cost-benefit analysis before scheduling (yes, scheduling) changes requested by your stakeholders AKA the destroyers of your life. It makes them less destructive and puts you in control. Boom!
Okay that’s all. If you still feel stupid after reading this then you’re just stupid and should not continue to manage any projects. Unless you’re using Easy Projects. Then you’re golden.
Ash Aujla is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Easy Projects. She's obsessed with marketing, productivity and project management. She appreciates good design, good music, and really good coffee.