By Bill Flury

Three experienced project managers were having coffee together in a break room at a Project Management Institute Workshop on Scope Management. Their workshop moderator had asked them to share scope creep stories about their clients and their projects. They all had “inventive” clients who were very prone to requesting new work or changes to task lists to which they had originally agreed. They all felt that they were doing a good job in controlling that situation but, as it turned out, each one was doing it in a different way.

Artur’s Story: Artur was a stickler for tight control. He told the others that he worked very hard at the beginning of his projects to nail down the requirements. He always made sure that each task was well defined and documented. He called that process “erecting fences”. As his projects progressed and his client started to ask for things outside the fences he would work up a change order stating how much work would be involved and indicating the cost implications.

Artur said that he felt that that was the safest way to handle the requests and it was the approach that was being proposed in the workshop. He told the others that it worked well from a business standpoint but his client really did not like it. His client was always fussing about being “nickeled and dimed” and would always complain about all the paperwork involved in each change. He was always asking, “Why can’t you just go ahead and do what I asked and send me a bill at the end?”

All three at the table agreed that tight control was important and they began to discuss ways to make everybody involved feel better about it.

Beryl’s Story: Beryl chimed in. She said that she and her client were working well and happily together. They had discussed the potential for scope creep and had decided on a slightly different way to handle requested changes.

When she was planning her project, Beryl set aside a substantial reserve of staff hours to cover changes and risk mitigation. She told her client about the reserve and set aside half of it. She spoke wither client and told him how many hours were in his part of the reserve and asked him to think about it like gas in a gas tank. They agreed to keep the gas gauge visible on the project web site. Each time her client requested a change she would get back to him with an estimate of how much of the reserve “gas” he would be using. Then, the client could decide if he wanted to take the trip. He also had the option of getting out his credit card and putting more gas into the tank if he wanted to extend the trip.

Beryl’s client liked this approach. It did not have that nickel-dime feeling. It was a pleasant way of sharing the responsibility for controlling and paying for changes.

Chandra’s Story: Chandra’s projects were all software projects. She told the others that she and her client had agreed on a different approach. In their approach, all changes would be accepted without question. The only thing they ever had to discuss was timing.

Chandra explained the method they used. The day after they started work on Version # 1 of the product, they would designate someone to start recording the features that will be in Version # 2. This way, they never had to say “We need more money to pay for it” or “We can’t do it!” They would agree that the requested feature will be in the next version.  If there was any quarrel with that, they would discuss how to swap some of V#1 into V#2 to keep things in balance. This approach worked for Chandra and Chandra’s customer was happy with it.

Their Class Presentation

During the break the three had shared three very different approaches to managing scope creep and were ready to head back into the workshop. There, they would tell the others about their conversation and the A B C’s of their approaches.

Beryl was chosen to speak for all three. She went to the whiteboard and wrote this:

Here are the A B C’s of managing Scope Creep

  • Artur’s Fences
  • Beryl’s Gas Tank
  • Chandra’s Version Control

Then Beryl described each approach as they had discussed them in the break room. There was some discussion of the drawbacks and benefits of each of them. After that, the moderator asked each member of the class:

Which of these approaches would work best for you? Let us know!


Blog_Bottom_Divider_BFull Course: Scope Definition and Management (1 day)

Click here for our full list of available courses!