Scope Creep and Other Horrors

  • What can you do about scope creep?
  • What are the causes of scope creep?  
  • Is it inevitable?

I think everybody becomes creative as we think about a project.  I was thinking of adding a bathroom at the cottage and before the conversation finished it became adding a whole new wing onto the cottage.  Of course, nothing happened because the project was too big.  What happened to the simple idea?

I think part of the cause is nothing is ever perfect and can always be improved upon.  You know the expression "Anything worth doing is worth doing well."  I think it might be unsaid but that it really means "anything worth doing should be perfect."

I have a relative who spent a long time getting his PhD.  He said he just wanted to do an adequate job.  I think adequate was his definition of perfection.

Another cause of scope creep is people's unwillingness to take the Rapid Results approach.  Get something working and then make it better, faster.  We are all scared that we will not go the next step and thus never finish.

Very few of us can tolerate the creative tension between our vision and reality.  See my blog on that subject,   Creative Tension

I would love to hear from some Project Managers stories about scope management.


  1. Jim Hayward Reply

    I suspect that we often think that if we do not do the complete project from the start then we may never do it “right thing.”
    I wonder if I could add the bathroom as the first step in a potential bigger project. The difficulty is the design of the bathroom as a first step is not as simple as doing the big project. I must try to create a Rapid Results project that could still leave the larger project possible.
    Design of the big addition is easier than a phased approach.
    I clearly need help in dealing with scope creep.
    Suggestions, please.

  2. Graham Reply

    Good intro, needs more content… Can you broaden the scope of this blog?
    At first blush every idea seems easy. But as they say, ” the devil is in the detail.” Scope creep is a direct result of not deciding what should be included in a release or version of some thing. The iPhone 3 camera has no “flash”. Somebody made the hard decision to leave it out of the 3.
    I think it’s harder to limit scope than to expand it and that is why most of us are really bad, me especially, when it comes to controlling it.

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