Thursday, December 5, 2013

Analyzing Scope Creep

Scope creep occurs in a project when the client or project team members attempt to change the scope or output of the project at some point during the project’s life cycle (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008). These changes in scope have the potential for negatively impacting the project’s schedule, budget, or final product. A project manager may choose to respond to scope creep by taking an approach of going back to the original statement of scope documents and simply saying “no” to the change in scope (Laureate, 2010). Saying no to a project change in scope is not always appropriate (Portny, et al., 2008). Knowing how and when it is appropriate to say “no” to scope creep is key as scope changes in a project often times may be inevitable due to various demands of the client or out of necessity for meeting other requirements or issues that occur during the lifecycle of the project.

The project background…
While working at a non-profit vocational rehabilitation organization I was given the opportunity to work on a project for developing a job skills course. My role in this project was to develop and design the curriculum along with eventually facilitating the course upon completion of the course design. The other individual involved in the project functioned as the project manager and was the quality assurance and supported employment program manager. The project was approached very informally with very little documentation. The planning phase of the project consisted of an initial meeting between the project manager, our organization’s executive director, and me. During the meeting we identified the scope of the project which entailed the development of a job skills assessment and skill development course that would be facilitated to the consumers served by our organization and taking place once a week for a period of four weeks on an ongoing basis. The content of the course needed to include assessment of current skills and career interests as well as components that addressed job skill development and job readiness.

Scope creep…
The project was progressing smoothly with bi weekly meetings between myself and the project manager. During the design phase of the course however we were notified that the organization would be going through an accreditation process with Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) International. CARF is an accreditation agency that provides accreditation services to health and human service providers to ensure the providers are effectively meeting quality standards (CARF International, n.d.) As a result, our stakeholder, the organization’s executive director requested that the scope of the project be changed to include content that she felt would be important for showcasing the organization’s approach for providing additional high quality services to the consumers we were serving. The executive director requested that the course content address additional topics of resume writing and effectively filling out job applications, dressing for success and effective interview skills, and skills in maintaining employment. The course still needed to be completed by the original deadline to ensure it was in the process of being facilitated when CARF International arrived for accreditation. The original intentions of the project manager and myself were to eventually create courses that addressed these other proposed topics following the completion of the original proposed project and not within the short time period we were given. Because this was a situation where saying “no” was not an option it ultimately resulted in me needing to spend additional hours designing and developing content to address these other areas. Ultimately the final product was delivered on time, but over budget due to loss of productivity in me not being able to perform other daily essential job functions that needed to be delegated to a part time employee thereby paying them for additional hours. Additionally, the project was not completed to the standards in which I would have liked and resulted in the need for redesigning portions of the course following the initial implemented that was completed during accreditation.

If I were project manager in this scenario…
Scope creep or a change in project scope does not always end in negatively impacting the project. When approached correctly, a scope change can be effectively controlled and managed to minimize the potential negative impact on a project by going through a formal process called a change control system (Portny, et al., 2008). In the project scenario that I described, the project scope creep could have been managed more effectively had the project manager followed a different approach. Looking back on the project, if I had been the project manager I would have done more during the planning phases of the project to clearly define the scope with the stakeholder and obtained a more formal approval of the scope and timeline. By doing so this would provide an original scope document to refer to when the stakeholder brought forward the need for changing the scope of the project. Having documentation and following a more formal process for the scope change would allow me to approach the situation more effectively without going into panic mode trying to figure out how address the change within the originally defined schedule and budget (Greer, 2010). Following the formal process would also give me the opportunity to analyze the impact of the change on the project including the quality, the costs, and the timeline and to discuss the impact with the other individuals working on the team and consider alternatives (Greer, 2010). This would then allow me to discuss the impact with the stakeholder and recommend possible alternatives such as allowing additional personnel to work on the course development or presenting prototypes for accreditation for the latter proposed topics allowing for further development at a later time with better quality. Additionally, it would make them fully aware of how the change will impact other aspects of the project so that they could make the determination of whether or not they want to proceed with the change based on the impact (Greer, 2010).

CARF International. (n.d.). About CARF. Retrieved from
Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010a). Practitioner voices: Overcoming “scope creep” [Video webcast] [with Dr. Van Rekom, Troy Achong, & Vince Budrovich]  Retrieved from
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Scope Creep [Online image] Retrieved December 5, 2013 from