Thursday, June 7, 2012

scope creep ...

I have been learning a lot about “scope creep” in a Project Management course I am taking. Scope creep is “the natural tendency of the client, as well as the project team members, to try to improve the project’s output as the project progresses” (Portny, et al, 2008, p. 346). As an eternal optimist and a bit of a perfectionist, I am a very guilty scope creeper – I just want everything to be the best it can be! Prior to this course, I had not really heard of scope creep; however, knowing about it now, I can see how project managers I have worked for before have worked successfully to keep me from going down this road. I actually cannot think of a professional project I have worked on where the scope was allowed to creep in any significant way. Big kudos to the PMs I have worked under!

Looking at my personal life, I have a few more examples. The most recent is the house that my husband and I purchased six months ago. As first time homeowners, we have grad visions for our new home. While, I have adhered to and been successful with some key aspects of project management (priorities, budget, delegating), I am guilty of allowing my scope to creep.

Recently, we agreed to paint the living room walls. We built it into a moderately busy weekend, but there was a large enough window to complete the painting as planned, we already had the paint, and we were going to be out of the house for much of the weekend – allowing the paint plenty of time to dry before needing to move furniture back in. The good news was we painted in record time! We were ahead of schedule and on budget – Project Manager win!

Sadly, I did not stop there. We had planned to paint the ceiling in a couple more weeks, but since we had finished so quickly, I talked my husband into doing the ceiling as well! While we didn’t go over budget and came in just a hair over the allotted time schedule, we did so with mixed results: the client (my husband and me) went into our next project (a night out on the town with friends) a little grumpier than planned, with sorer muscles than anticipated, and created the hassle of squeezing around furniture left in the hallway upon returning from the night out. And a stubbed toe while navigating the furniture in the morning to brew the coffee needed to get the room put back together.

As the project manager on our future house projects, I must manage my tendency to allow the scope to creep by:
- recognizing the creep,
- identifying the impact the change might have on other areas,
 contemplate alternative options that could achieve the same end results,
- evaluate the benefits and disadvantages of making these changes, and
- clearly communicate the changes to the stakeholder for sign off (Portny, et al, 2008).

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.


  1. Hi Erin,
    I think that all perfectionists will ahve a problem with scope creep because they want everything to be just so. If we can controlthese tendencies at home by recognizing it and acknowledging the impact it could make, we'll go a long way towards controlling it.

  2. Erin,

    A scope creep can occur at any project no matter how small it is; Gurlen (2003) explains, "Scope creep affects not only IT projects, but ANY type of project, such as building a new home". I guess this applies to your case.
    You can think of the scope creep as beneficial somehow in your case - if you exclude the dinner out- You actually managed to paint the walls and the ceiling in one day, this has spared you the trouble of messing up the house and relocating the furniture another time.
    Yes, being a perfectionist makes you a scope creep (Gurlen, 2003). You should consider this as a good aspect since you work well as a project manager. I say this because you were able to finish the job without exceeding the budget and the timeline.
    Good work



    Gurlen, S. (2003). Scope creep. Retrieved from

  3. Hi Erin
    Nice example of scope creep in your personal life. Before this class, I didn't think of such a term and I am glad that we can use the advice from Dr. Stolovich next time we take on projects. For me personally, I have learned to communicate better and to plant the sequence of events more carefully.

  4. Erin you make very good points because we are always trying to make things better. I am probably guilty of scope creep in more ways than others as well. One way that I am guilty of scope creep is when I hire movers. i always try to get the movers to do more than I ask.

    Also when I am in the I try to arrange my classroom it seems like it is a never ending task because I am never satisfied. Therefore, what I must do to realize the scope creep is to write down the goals of the project and leave it at that. If there is anything that comes along that I believe would make it better then i will save that for another project.