Is Scope Creep Killing Your Projects?

scope creep

When customers request additional work or changes to a project or job that wasn’t originally stated in the scope, this puts a project manager in an invidious position. A project may creep beyond the anticipated work scope, whether from the customer or employees doing extra work than originally quoted.

To better understand Scope Creep, here is a notable example from Entrepreneur: “Visualize scope creep like this, suppose you walk into a McDonald’s and you order a Big Mac. The cashier tells you the price, but before you pay, you say, “Oh and I would like a large Coke with that.” That Coke changed the scope of work.  Most reasonable people would assume that adding a drink to the order would increase the price of the order, but in the real world of large commercial projects, that’s not automatic. It’s a discussion between other people.”


Common Examples of Scope Creep:

  • Lack of clarity and depth to the original specification document.
  • Allowing direct [unmanaged] contact between client and all team participants.
  • Customers trying to get extra work “on the cheap.”
  • Beginning design and development of something before a thorough requirements analysis and cost-benefit analysis has been done.
  • Scope creep “where you do it to yourself” because of lack of foresight and planning.
  • Poorly defined initial requirements.
  • Setting impossibly tight time frames.

Here are some better ways to handle Scope Creep.

    • Define a clear and concise work scope from the start. Your scope needs to state which specific features are included, which aren’t, while setting a strict timeline on due dates. If you are inconsistent with these, your client won’t know what to expect from your company and will be unsatisfied when you tell them you cannot perform their request, when you completed a similar request last project. Additionally, once you accept scope creep from one client you are setting a precedent for the rest.

    • Take the time to think through the scope created. Before committing to a scope, your team should evaluate this project to look for potential work the client may want to add on in the future. Clients don’t always understand all the minor deliverables they will need to accomplish to achieve their end goal. Based on your experience, brainstorm any loopholes you find in the scope and suggest the additional tasks to your client at a price before getting started.

    • As soon as you see the scope of the project expanding, take action! All too often employees wait until the additional work piles up, the project falls apart, and returns hardly any profit for your company. Once you see even the smallest unauthorized requests slipping their way into the project, stand your ground. Do not lose control and stick to the scope.

    • Do not dismiss their request for additional work. Offer your client an alternative solution instead. Just because an add-on to a project is not in the original scope or their new deadline doesn’t match the set timeline, doesn’t mean you should necessarily decline this work altogether. If it is possible to complete, let your client know that your team can achieve this request but it is not included in the quoted price and will cost extra. Be sure to quote out this additional price fairly to maintain a happy client without compromising your profit. 

    • Get it in Writing. Finally, with a clear scope of work and priced proposal, it is vitally important that the client reads, understands, and signs off all necessary documentation. Your contract should clearly state that any additional work not stated within the scope of work is considered as extra and must be agreed in writing by client and provider. Remember: you don’t just want a signature on paper; you want your client’s understanding.


    Scope creep can be damaging to your company and hard to recover from. Our consulting team can work with you to define a process to avoid any scope creep. Contact Jim DePew below to discuss this option.

    Jim DePew
    Vice President & Consultant
    Mobile: (330) 631-9022
    Office: (330) 915-2355 Ext: 103