How Can I Avoid Scope Creep?

Answer:           Scope creep is a big problem due to volatile project environments, budget cutbacks, and staffing changes. We need good project management skills or the scope will expand unattended, affecting our bottom line. Some examples I have experienced include:

·       A limited initial view of project requirements

·       Lack of control over timelines and scheduling

·       Staff turnover


1.     Use a phased project approach

When writing your proposal, you have the least knowledge you will ever have about the project, yet your eventual success is at stake. A phased approach to project design can manage overall project scope. For example:

·       Phase 1—Evaluability assessment and project work plan

·       Phase 2—Evaluation conduct

·       Phase 3—Knowledge translation support.

This approach allows you to interview stakeholders, read relevant documents, and design the project, all as legitimate project activities. Clients can phase their budget over more than one budget year. Several contract end points allow both parties to bow out gracefully if the relationship fails and yet deliverables will still be produced.

2.     Provide status reports

A one-page monthly status report is an important scope management tool. Provide a table to link current task completion to the work plan. Add a summary paragraph to describe interesting events or spotlight emerging issues.

Because status reports link to milestone billing, I know as month-end approaches if I have not yet completed requirements. It’s a good way to stay focused and within scope. Follow up with a phone call to discuss task status or strategize about issues.

3.     Acculturate new staff

A tough scope management issue is staff turnover. Review your project with the new contract manager to determine if changes are required and provide training. Initially, managers may be overwhelmed and compliant but once established, they may have other ideas for the evaluation. Communications and reporting are not enough. Try to draw the manager more closely into the research team. Attend meetings with them to provide back-up. Invite them on data collection activities. Take them to lunch and try to manage the chemistry. The acculturation process will pay off if your project can continue as planned.

Originally published in the Independent Consulting TIG Newsletter, Volume 4, Issue 3. June 2013.

For more information on consulting topics see in Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up & Management: A Guide for Evaluators & Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.   


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