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Friday, 12 October 2012

Managing Scope Creep

‘Scope Creep’ – the “tendency to improve [a] project’s output” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton & Kramer (2008) can easily show its face in the best planned and simplest of projects. I participated once in an informal project that very well demonstrates how scope creep can occur.  At the time of the project, none of the members of the organizing team had any knowledge of project management and therefore was not able to identify what was happening.
            Our church decided to host a ‘food war’ competition for our youth group.  The plan was simple – divide the group into two teams, have them bake pizza, announce and reward the winner.  The actual activity was certainly a lot more complex – three teams that each participated in a baking and three other competitions, each of which needed to be separately judged and rewarded.  The organizers found themselves having to seek additional manpower to assist with monitoring and judging the different activities, as well as sponsorship for prizes for all the teams for each activity.  Upon reflection, we realized that the following things occurred under our noses:
  • ·       The event generated so much excitement within the youth group and the church that a lot more persons than expected started to get involved.  With more persons involved, more activity ideas were generated and embraced.  The increased activities called for an increased budget to meet expenses for increased ingredients and increased prizes.  The budget also had to be spread to include refreshments for the audience members on the night of the event, which numbered about four times the count of regular attendees.
  • ·        The organizing team spent much more time than anticipated in the organization of the event. Because of the continuous increase in activities and planning, the organizers were constantly trying to pin down new logistics for the night.  This resulted in many of them neglecting other church responsibilities that they had, having to focus on so many unexpected tasks for this event.
The way that the main organiser dealt with the scope creep was to attempt to delegate as many of the new and arising tasks to available hands.  This in itself was a project risk as such delegate was sporadic and done without any overall project management view in mind.  The event in itself turned out to be successful in terms of the interaction and collaboration it generated among the youths.  However, the hype of the night and the fact that quite a number of donations and last-minute offers of assistance were received shrouded the fact that the event was way over-expensed and nearly undermanned. 
            Knowing what I now know about Project Management, had I been the organiser of the event, I would have definitely been able to identify and control the project creep.  I would have carefully selected which additional activity ideas were within the scope of the project and which could not be entertained.  I would have been able to budget appropriately for additional activities and also be able to assign manpower as needed. Now that I know better, I would be looking out for such sneaky project creep in the future.

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.