Mastering Scope Creep - Project Management Strategies

Prateek Sharma
3 min readJul 4, 2024

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Scope Creep

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Scope creep is bound to happen in any project. If you think that in your project, you have given the vendor or the third party a complete set of requirements and you won’t have scope creep in the future, then you are 100% wrong. Scope creep happens in every single project.

When you start working on a project, you always have some ideas and thought processes about how it would work out. However, when things come down to paper and the real execution starts, we begin to see how our ideas or thought processes deviate from the current path. That’s where the division starts appearing, and that’s where scope creep occurs.

We know that we can’t negate the fact that scope creep will happen in the future. This is a well-known statement in any kind of project you undertake in any particular field or industry. However, you will rarely find project managers working out how to handle scope creep. Very rarely will you see project managers discussing or planning against scope creep. They often start the project with a templated way of working, and when scope creep happens, problems, delays, and other issues start appearing.

It is always advisable that when you are signing any agreement pertaining to any kind of project or program, you discuss in detail how you are going to plan for scope creep. Specifically discuss the changes in requirements and flexibility. This discussion needs to happen to make it easier for everyone to understand how they need to plan for scope creep.

It’s fundamental that whenever the sales team or pre-sales team has a discussion with prospective clients about rolling out a project, they always discuss scope creep while keeping the project manager in the loop. This ensures that project managers on both sides are aligned with the discussion terms. You need to discuss what flexibility you allow in changing requirements and how you quantify those changes. For example, if you say there is 20% flexibility, it means that 20% of the requirements can change. While discussing these requirements, you need to specify which areas are flexible enough to change and which are not. This helps prevent project delays or minimize the chances of damage if delays occur.

Apart from flexibility, you need to clearly define which particular areas allow for flexibility and which areas cannot accept changes because they would completely derail the project. So, first, you have to quantify the flexibility and specify in which particular areas that flexibility is allowed.

As the project progresses and we start seeing scope creep happening, it needs to be brought to the attention of senior management and everyone involved in the project regularly. This ensures that everyone is aware of the fallout from scope creep, including the costs and resources that need to be devoted to address it. If there’s a worst-case scenario, the resource cost, opportunity cost, money cost, timeline cost, and any other associated costs need to be discussed at a senior level before being accepted into the project.

Another good practice is to include penalty clauses in the agreement before the project review. Penalty clauses act as a mental roadblock to suggesting changes and will create a barrier in the minds of people who frequently request scope changes. Try to include penalty clauses on both sides if scope changes regularly. Discuss how scope changes will affect the project work, how costs will increase, timelines will extend, and other impacts. If penalty clauses are put in the agreement, they will definitely create a mental roadblock.

In conclusion, you have to plan for scope creep well in advance and discuss it before committing to the project. Otherwise, when it happens, you won’t have a plan and will be at the mercy of things deviating on their own, unable to control the situation. Properly planning for scope creep is crucial; otherwise, your project may fall apart.

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Prateek Sharma

A lifelong learner with keen interest in tech automation, finance & economics.