Analyzing Scope Creep

11 Apr

Scope creep is the natural tendency of the client or project team member to try and improve the project’s output as the project progresses (Portney, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, & Sutton, 2008). They usually do this by adding extra material or ideas to the project. Scope creep isn’t necessarily a bad thing but the problem that usually occurs is that it deviates the project from the initially agreed upon project plan which usually leads to affecting the project completion time and the cost of the project. One other thing that can occur with scope creep is that the person suggesting the new changes is so caught up with trying to put out the best product that they don’t realize that they are now pulling the project away from its objective and intended audience. This was the case in a project I was involved with in my old job.

Back in my old job, we were tasked to develop an aircraft technician course in Spanish that our instructors were going to teach to the air forces of our Latin American Allies. The course objective was to develop an aircraft technician course that was intended for an apprentice student entering this career field and the course was to cover only the basic aircraft systems and duties of a crew chief. The course was also supposed to be weapons systems neutral since our Latin American Allies all have different weapon systems within each of their countries. This project started off good and we had a SME assigned to us full time who was going to be one of the instructors for the course. Scope creep came into the picture when we were developing some of the course content with the SME. The SME began to add some advance topics to each of the aircraft system material because he felt it was important and that this would make the students as well as the course much better. The problem I had with this was that now we were going away from the objective of the course which was to design a course covering the basic aircraft systems geared to an apprentice student. The second issue I had was that some of the topics he added were weapon system specific which meant that it would not apply to all of our students since some of their countries don’t have that particular weapon system. I address the SME about this and he became upset. The SME went to his leadership and he got them to agree with his additions. We decided to setup a meeting with all the stake holders in order to vote on the SME’s proposal. At this meeting I told the stakeholders the same thing I told the SME which was that we were going away from the original objective by adding advance material. I showed them the extra time and cost it would take to add this material since we would have to change the system cut-outs that we were going to order as well as change all the visual aids for those particular systems to include the advance topic info and graphics. I also proposed that we can use all that advance material to develop an advance aircraft technician course that we could offer in the future. The stakeholders all agreed with my suggestions

This was one of my experiences with scope creep. Looking back I think I would have handled it the same way. There is no way of avoiding scope creep because you will always have someone making a suggestion or idea on how to improve the project and wanting to implement it. Our textbook recommends three great ideas to deal with scope creep and any changes to projects which are:

–          Develop a change order to document all change request

–          Require clients to approve all changes in writing

–          Update plans and schedules to reflect changes.

These three suggestions gives the project manager control over any change and most important you have signatures as proof that they agreed on the change after any warning they might have received on the affects the change might have to the project delivery date and cost.



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.


Posted by on April 11, 2014 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “Analyzing Scope Creep

  1. Lee Ahonen

    April 12, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Hi Carlos,

    It was interesting to read about your experience. It must be challenging to try to rein in an SME without creating friction. You need the expertise of the SME, but you want to keep the project on track with pre-established and budgeted goals. It was a good idea to meet with all of the stakeholders to discuss the situation AND to suggest a potential new program to utilize the additional information provided by the SME. That is one way to make the SME feel valued, and to make sure the project meets the stakeholders’ objectives.


  2. Keith Womack

    September 4, 2014 at 1:17 am

    Hey Carlos,

    I wanted to let you know I will be following your blog. Looking forward to your postings.



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