The Evils of Scope Creep

For the last three weeks we have had an opportunity to work in teams assignments via distance and face to face. The structure of these assignments have forced virtual strangers to work together to assess problems, methodology, data collection, research, and written analysis and conclusions.

As the assignments have become more complex, I have noticed the propensity for “Scope Creep” to increase. Scope creep can be an evil adversary if you let it get the best of you and you must be on guard at all times.

For example when working in a group you will often have multiple points of view that have to be distilled down to the core elements of the project. I sometimes think that people have a hidden pressure to add items for fear of missing key elements of the assignment. So guess what happens…….that’s right…..Scope Creep!!

When a group first gets together on a project, everyone is full of enthusiasm and brainstorms ideas for the project. I often find this process to be fun and an enjoyable time during the assignment, but this excitement is often ruined by….you guessed it….Scope Creep. When I am at home staring into the mirror I ask myself, “why does it always show up and make the work more complex and larger than what is intended”!

When you really think about it the components of any assignment are to determine the problem statement or the scope of the project. While this sounds easy enough, I am finding that our assignments are not so conveniently packaged and have many variables to consider. As a result, an inordinate amount time is used in the planning and developing stage. I am thankful for the teams I have worked with because we have been able to discuss the variables in logical manner and eliminate those variables that did not make sense for the assignment. Scope Creep has been kept at bay, but it has taken enormous amount of effort and resources of our battle weary team.

Even when you have decided on the direction of the assignment, scope creep can rear its ugly head and broaden the scope of the project. You have to be ever vigilant against the evils of this nefarious foe, for it will always try to get the best of you.

Always remember to recognize the vile signs of Scope Creep:

  • People starting to shout over one another even though you had already decided on a course of action. (Scope Creep has the ability to change ones personality)
  • New diagrams on the white board suddenly appear even though they have nothing to do with the project (This is a particular nasty form of Scope Creep that may be contagious)
  • Endless mind mapping exercises (Sometimes called the Scope Creep Vortex of Doom)
  • Finally….Staring intently at your laptop and mumbling there must be another idea we can use

Now that you know the signs, please do take care and stay strong against this scourge of case studies across the land.

In Solidarity




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7 responses to “The Evils of Scope Creep

  1. As a fellow team member (solidarity!), my comment may be biased… I agree with you that scope creep can have a significant affect on a project, BUT I also think that in discussions, it is sometimes impossible to identify what the right scope is without first identifying the wrong scope. Like Bill said, you have to first go like this (arms held out wide), then like this (hands very close together), and then finally like this (hands and arms an appropriate distance apart).

  2. Amen Brother!
    It’s interesting how this seems to happen no matter how little weighting an assignment may have on the course syllabus isn’t it? We all have what Bandura refers to as the “belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the sources of action required to manage prospective situations,” so shouldn’t that help – or does it complicate things? I’ve found in group situations that the perception of self-efficacy held by each member of the group will provide a level of motivation to contribute to the project. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing. Where complications arise is when people feel determined to contribute even after the criteria of the assignment have already been met. Everybody wants to be heard and to contribute but if the task has been met and there are still group members who have not had a chance to contribute they start looking for ways to sneak in their contribution. I’m all for making a contribution but how can you address the issue of “having enough to meet the criteria” without stepping on toes? It’s a tricky dilemma to navigate but I think you’re on the right track with suggesting constant vigilance. If we know it’s lurking behind every corner waiting to pounce on any collaborative effort we will be prepared to marshall our collective defenses.

  3. Hey Shaun, we’ve been fighting a severe case of scope creep for a couple of days now. I think it’s under control but it was a tough nut to crack at first. Not everyone comes to a case study with the same experience and expertise of course. The scope creep is a result of everyone just trying to make sure that they contribute. I wouldn’t say people invent topics, but they certainly magnify their relevance to the project so that there’s a solid ground for them to feel comfortable working on and feel that they’re contributing to the value of the final product.

  4. Holy S@#%!
    Thank god (I mean Shawn) you wrote this blog in the nic of time! I think my last team (and they would agree) suffered from this affliction. Thank you for bringing it to my attention before it could happen again!

    • I know! Even though I am acutely aware of scope creep it still managed to enter our team! It is a very sly devil that can paralyse any group if you don’t watch out!!!!

      Thanks for responding to the post


  5. Hi Shawn,
    I really enjoyed your blog on the evils of scope creep – you make some very funny but also very insightful comments about how quickly scope can get out of control on a project like our case study. I also like the signs that demonstrate that scope creep has infiltrated your group project – these will be important reminders to us all on future projects of things to look out for that might suggest that the nefarious creature of too much scope has entered the process. Your posting sent me on a mission to find something online that would relate to scope creep, like a youtube video. I watched a lot of not very good videos on scope creep, and then I ironically expanded my scope to include other forms of humorous media online. I am attaching a link to what I think may be the best visual representation of scope creep that I have found. It would make a great t-shirt!

    It was great meeting you in person and I hope you have a safe trip back to Kamloops!


  6. One more lesson I learned during the constructive feedback session of another group that taking into consideration of “limitations” and “delimitations”. As Judith explained yesterday, we do not have control over the “limitations”. We have to be aware of them and work around and with them in our projects. The “delimiters” are the certain aspect of our projects that we deliberately leave out of the project scope. We would need to identify what they are and why we are not including them into our projects. Do you think these two features prevent scope creep?

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