How to Avoid Scope Creep as a Manager

Around 50% of projects experience scope creep — which creates many critical issues in project management. Here are tips to prevent and avoid it.

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How to Avoid Scope Creep as a Manager

Here's what you need to know:

  • To avoid scope creep as a manager, make the scope of projects as clear as possible
  • Requirements for the project should outline the scope
  • Clear, comprehensive written contracts are crucial
  • Find a documentation tool that works well for everyone
  • Encourage everyone to have clear communication

The scope of a project is a term used to describe all the tasks required to complete a project accurately. Scope creep happens when sudden changes occur to the scope without any plans in place to adjust at the last minute.

Other than sheer frustration, scope creep creates many critical issues in project management. These problems look like meeting schedules, deadlines, costs, and resources. Complications like these make it hard to reach project milestones and stick to the plan.

Around 50% of projects experience scope creep, and a little over half of those finish on schedule. This rises to about 80% in terms of software projects.

This may be due in part to the fact that only 6% of managers list avoiding scope creep as a method for risk prevention.

Scope creep happens when new project requirements come along after task completion. This new rule introduction causes the need for backtracking.

Oftentimes, these new requests jump into the project scope without the ability to change the completion date. Without the ability to suddenly adjust, the integrity of the project suffers.

Sometimes projects can expect changes, and the floor must be open to compensate. A good way to get ahead of scope creep or attempt to avoid it altogether is to come up with foolproof risk management plans.

Make the scope of projects as clear as possible

The entire team needs to be in the loop and know what the goal is that they’re working towards. The team should agree on the outcome of the project so that they can collaborate thoroughly on the details and individualized tasks.

The team should agree on the outcome of the project so that they can collaborate thoroughly on the details and individualized tasks.

This will prevent confusing changes from occurring during the project. Clarity deters distractions and keeps them focused on what they’re supposed to be accomplishing each step of the way.

Requirements for the project should outline the scope

All requirements for the project need to thoroughly outline the scope in the first place. The Scope of Work (SOW) of a project plan that dictates what the project is, what it needs to accomplish, and what the desired outcome is.

This should define the expected timelines, who is responsible for what facet, and what the deliverables should look like in detail.

Regular check-ins should keep everyone on track and on the same page. This also makes sure expectations are being met in the short term.

Regular conversations can answer and address any concerns about the tasks involved. Check-ins keep clarity and conciseness in mind.

An SOW is the backbone of the project and gives the team something to reference when they hit a wall or become forgetful about the smallest detail.

Providing the SOW to everyone on the team, including any outside agencies involved, will allow everyone to remain on the same page. Scope creep will have a harder time occurring if there are fewer excuses for the expectations along the way

Clear, comprehensive written contracts are crucial

A clear and comprehensive written contract is a crucial part of scope creep prevention. This provides a written guideline for all contractors, customers, and other clients involved in the project.

Directly outline milestones, expectations, budgets, and responsibilities for everyone involved. Have meetings to discuss requirements and means of resources.

These help team members reach the bottom line for the best avenues of delivery for every piece of the project. It’s best to handle this part before writing the final contract.

When team members become aware of the requirements, they can all reach a mutual decision. At this point, they can speak with all stakeholders to ensure no part of the project goes overlooked. This prevents massive surprise changes from an entire department.

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Find a documentation tool that works well for everyone

Find a tool that works best for everyone in terms of documentation. This could be in the form of a calendar that can synchronize with everyone’s daily tasks, for sharing at any time.

Everyone should create an entry detailing their jobs and tasks, completed and upcoming.

They should write a quick synopsis detailing any successes or issues they may have run into. This way, in the event of anyone’s absence, another person can see where they left off and help fill in their gap.

It also helps keep a project manager from having to consistently ask for feedback. When they have matters to attend to, they can look at a person’s entry in a project management tool and see where they are in their endeavors.

This way, they can prioritize and gather their questions or concerns about findings and address them all at the same time to prevent delay.

When someone’s negative input can set the project back a few paces, addressing the issue can immediately help to keep the ball rolling. As long as the manager listens intuitively and helps provide solutions, conflict and scope creep are a thing of the past.

Encourage everyone to have clear communication

Before it’s all said and done, the project manager is the one to take accountability for the project’s outcomes. They keep everyone focused, on task, and on time.

Even if a meeting or phone conference is impossible, it’s important to keep lines of communication open.

Allow everyone to leave notes and encourage everyone to use a tool to alert everyone else of an impending change. Provide professional feedback and maintain a sense of urgency to avoid scope creep.

Project management means overseeing the work of various teams, departments, and attitudes. Communication is key to keeping everything known and making sure nothing falls through the cracks.

A part of communicating is being able to know when to say no. Some scope creeps and sudden changes are unnecessary and only cause chaos and backtracking.

Even if it’s to an employer or major stakeholders, saying no may be the answer to keeping the project in alignment with time and budget requirements.

As politely as possible, it could be vital to tell a manager that the scope creep doesn’t meet the requirements in the SOW or violates the contract.

Every member of the team should be aware of their boundaries in taking on additional tasks. Revisiting some items in another project is a possibility to keep the peace and find ways to compromise.

The project management team should want to deliver the best outcome for everyone. Communicating about every detail can ensure everyone feels involved, heard, and happy.

Scope creep is manageable and conquerable

Avoiding scope creep can keep the project from ending on a stressful and overwhelming note. Taking the time out to develop a plan, document all progress, and create open communication are some of the ways to keep scope creep from happening.

Knowing the expectations and having respect for the project are foundational ways to avoid problems. Project members performing the basics saves a lot of time and money. What’s more, their attention to detail says plenty for project managers and the company as a whole.

In the case that scope creep is unavoidable, don’t view it negatively. Changes happen, and how a person deals with change affects more than just their work life.

It will say more about a manager’s accountability when they’re able to accept a change and apply it properly without a fuss. Either way, scope creep is manageable, conquerable, and malleable.

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