Avoiding Scope Creep

Scope creep is, at its most basic, changes which made over the course of a project that eventually result in a different outcome than what was intended in the beginning. It refers to the uncontrolled growth in project scope after the project has begun, usually caused by stakeholders adding requirements that had not originally been agreed upon.

scope creep
Scope creep can wreck the best planned projects

Scope creep:

  • Wastes money
  • Wastes resources
  • Demoralizes and fatigues your team members
  • Causes unhappy customers
  • Derails projects and causes project failure

Here are two strategies to avoid and manage scope creep.

Plan Better

Project managers should always aim to proactively plan ahead. When allocating resources for projects, managers must consider scope creep to be a possibility and plan accordingly. A clearly defined scope of work is an important part of setting expectations at the beginning of a project. It will be much easier to identify and manage scope creep by documenting the scope of your project beforehand, and holding your clients to the agreement.

To avoid unnecessary stress for everyone, make sure you allow some room in the project plan for any changes that could occur. This added capacity for flexibility will help your project adapt to small changes and pay off big time when it comes to client relationships.


Always keep all lines of communication open. If a change in scope comes up during the project, always take the lead and meet with your client and discuss the changes. Always point out how the proposed changes will impact the timeline. Provide your professional input, and work together to make a decision. The scope agreement is your friend, here.

scope agreement
The scope agreement is a project manager’s best friend

Learn to say no. Don’t just say yes just to please everyone. When the client starts making change requests, document everything. Show how the changes differ from the agreed scope from the project’s launch. Be firm – explain their requests are outside the original agreement. Remind them what the original scope of work is. You then can present them with two options. You can add on the requested work for an additional expense and an adjusted timeline, when possible, or you can proceed with the agreed-upon scope of work. This gives the client a simple choice – and it keeps you in the driver’s seat.

Summary: Avoiding Scope Creep

A project manager should sense that a scope creep is coming, and a good manager studies it and develops an approach to tackle it head on. Scope creep can create a stressful work environment, and take the fun out of doing what you love. Take the time to develop a well-defined project, and continually communicate with your client to proactively manage the first signs of scope creep. With these two strategies, you can prevent scope creep from occurring and manage it when it does happen. Together, they ensure project success.

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