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TipTiffany's Tip of the Month

Avoid Scope Creep


What is "Scope Creep"?  Simply said, it's when you plan to do something and suddenly you find yourself with more to do than you originally thought.  Controlling your scope is particularly important when you work on personal or professional projects.  The inability to properly "scope out" projects can lead to cost overruns, missed deadlines, and unhappy stakeholders.  First, let's define "scope".


There are two different types of scope: Project Scope and Product Scope. Project Scope refers to the work that must be done to execute the project. For example, if you are doing a bathroom remodel, project scope may include: Vanity, Shower, Tile work, Toilet closet, Fixtures, and Lighting. These are the "deliverables" because they are unique and verifiable products, services, or results. 


Once you identify these deliverables, break them down into smaller defined pieces of work. For instance, does the vanity work include plumbing and installation of new sinks? Does tile work involve installation of flooring and shower? Continue breaking the project down into smaller and smaller pieces until each piece of work can be accurately estimated in terms of cost, time, and resources. 


My favorite scoping tool is called a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). I love it because the WBS becomes the foundation of the project allowing me to plan and control scope, time, cost, risk, quality, and resources. The WBS is also an effective communication tool for discussions with stakeholders about scope and how changes impact the project. Some experienced project managers are familiar with the Work Breakdown Structure process (which we teach in all Ready2ACT courses). 


Unfortunately, the Work Breakdown Structure alone will not allow you control your project scope because you must also define the Product Scope. Product Scope consists of the features and functions that characterize what you are delivering. For example, for the deliverable Vanity: what are the dimensions, what type of composite or wood, how many sinks are required? 


Most project managers have never learned how to elicit, validate, document, and communicate requirements associated with Product Scope. Consequently, scope creep is still one of the Top 5 challenges project managers face because they are only familiar with managing project scope at the expense of leaving product scope ill-defined. This unintentionally allows for changing requirements that negatively impact the schedule, cost, resources, quality, and risk associated with a project.


Look for my tip on Product Scope in February's newsletter. 

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Tiffany Dahlberg - Ready2ACT