How to Prevent Project Management Scope Creep

Project managers are always on the watch for scope creep on their projects, yet the problem persists. This video offers seven ways to combat it before your projects derail.

In Review: Project Management Scope Creep

Jennifer Bridges, PMP, offers this short tutorial on avoiding scope creep in your projects. She provides techniques that can be applied to manage the project as planned as well as managing changes. She outlines seven ways to prevent and deal with scope creep:

  • Define the scope
  • Log the changes
  • Re-baseline
  • Request more funding and/or resources
  • Watch for signs
  • Set Priorities
  • Avoid the traps

It’s important to note that sometimes the cause of scope creep are your resources (this article will help you determine when your team is out of control). Who is making problems in your project causing scope creep? They could range from team members to stakeholders. You can use the same techniques outlined above to help manage them.

Pro-Tip: Remember to keep an eye on yourself, as well! You want to insure that you’re not the one extending the scope by adding additional features and requirements. Developing a collaborative team free to discuss and share impacts to the project, is the best way to support the project.

The video goes into greater detail on all these points. It’s a good primer that addresses an important obstacle on the road to the successful completion of your project.

Thanks for watching!


Hello, I’m Jennifer Whitt, Director of Welcome fans. I think you’re going to like this whiteboard session today, so thank you for joining us on Preventing Scope Creep.

Well, I crack myself up sometimes because my unconscious wrote Preventing Scope Creeps, and I know we’ve all experienced scope creep before, but it’s better to recognize the scope creeps. You know, the resources on our projects or our stakeholders, or maybe our customers that are the people who inject the problems causing the scope creep.

So I feel like it’s important, not only to put techniques in place to manage the scope creep, but also the scope creeps. What do they look like?
Well, sometimes we think the scope creeps, the people who interject the scope on our project are scary-looking. Maybe they’re mean. But what we’ve learned is they’re more likely the people who you like the most.

They’re the people who bring you the donuts and take you out to lunch. They’re your best buddy. You want to do everything for them. So they’re the ones always asking for the little extras. That’s what we’re going to talk about today. Here are some techniques we can put in place to help manage that.

So these are seven tips that I’ve learned on how to stay on track. So number one, define the scope. I’m constantly amazed at how many projects I work with and they haven’t really identified the scope. Or maybe they kind of have an idea of what it is, but it’s important to know and define the scope up front before the project starts and not after the project starts. I know you’re laughing because you’ve seen it too.

So it’s important to define it up front, agree on it with your change control board, your stakeholders, and your clients, and baseline. It’s important to baseline what the scope is before the project starts. Then, log the changes. Again, here’s another one. Totally shocked where the changes to the project or the scope aren’t documented. So we recommend document the change, evaluate the change, what change or how is that going to impact your projects, and approve it.

Know what you’re going to do with it. Are we going to put it on hold? Are we going to approve it, implement that change, what are we going to do with it? It’s important that the change control board of your project makes that call and not you, the project manager, or otherwise, you’re going to be left holding the project bag in the end.

Number three, re-baseline, so when those changes are approved or incorporated into the project, it’s important to baseline either the schedule or the project plan. That’s one simple thing that can be done, so I don’t know the statistic you look at. I know that several organizations including Gartner and many other organizations constantly look at what is the number of failed projects?

So, consider your source. One source says 75% of projects fail. Well, most of that is in this area where people do not take control of the change. If merely once those changes are agreed upon by the stakeholders and your change control board, and then approved by that group, then to re-baseline it, then you might not have a failed project. It’s a difference between if you are in the 75% of failed projects or in the 25% of the successful ones.

So if you just look merely at numbers, if there are ten project managers in the room with you, then 7.5, or if you round it up, eight of you are managing failed projects and two of you are successful ones. The slight difference can be something as small as whether you’re managing the changes of the scope and re-baselining your plans.

Number four, request additional funding or resources. So, now the changes have been approved. You’ve re-baselined. But sometimes for some people it’s hard to go back and request additional resources, the funding you need to make those changes happen. If you agree upon this but you don’t go back and ask for the people, the funding, the resources that you need in order to do those changes, again, we’re back here in the statistic.

Number five, watch for the signs. So for you as a project manager, always watching your team, the behaviors of your team. We feel like the signs are when things get too quiet, where people are working but you’re not getting any signals from the team or any feedback. Or things are always okay when you ask your project team or your team members, “How are things going?” and everything’s on track. Well, those, we feel like, are signs that something may not be right.

So it’s always good to go back, check your team members, your project, look at things that are actually being completed and to see and evaluate “Are you really on track?” Are they taking the cookies and the brownies and the donuts from the scope creeps, implementing those changes in and quietly doing those? Only for you to find out at the end of the project where your scope had crept and you didn’t know about it.

Number six, set priorities. Again, this goes back with the previous steps, having your change control board to evaluate and prioritize the changes. This happens when we usually see multiple groups, sometimes with your project and you have different stakeholders from different, say, business units who bring changes to you, and then it’s a squabble. Let the change control board decide which changes need to be approved. Let the change control board do that, otherwise you’re going to be in a bad position that you don’t want to be in.

Number seven, avoid the traps. We’ve seen them all from the scope creeps where the little phrases that they say, “Well while you’re in there…” Or, “While you’re doing that could you do this too?” Or, “All you have to do is…” They have a simple solution, although they’ve never done it before. Or the one I love the most, “Hey, it will not take that long.”

Well, based on what? Based on whose assessment? Based on them who’ve never done it before? Based on no changes or evaluation? So these are little traps we find ourselves in that we end up in the 75% or even higher number of failed projects.

So, I have to admit, when I’m the customer, I’m actually a scope creep because I’m the one taking the cookies and the donuts and the pizza or any tactic I can find to get the additional things in that I want. So some of these tips I’ve learned from myself, not only from my project, but from myself being a customer on other projects where I’m the scope creep.

So if you need any tips, tools or techniques to manage your scope creep, or better yet, identify the scope creeps, then visit us at

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