Scope Creep on a Project is Bad: – True or False? It depends! For the Client/Customer, it is bad if there isn’t enough budget or it’s an unwelcome surprise, or it could be good if it adds value to the project. For the  Consultant/Provider, it could be good as it adds to the value of the services, but bad if there is no payment for the added services. It is always bad for both parties if notification and authorization of the added work occurs after the work is done! And yet it happens; perhaps some of these reasons sound familiar to you:

  • The work had to get done immediately, we couldn’t stop to negotiate it
  • It wasn’t that big a deal when it started
  • It was a gray area of the scope
  • We verbally agreed it needed to be done, but didn’t document it

How these situations are handled can directly impact the project and relationship between the Client and Consultant. The following 2 animated videos that illustrate how a bad situation can be turned around are followed by a discussion of how it could have been prevented.

Let’s set the stage in the first video: A Client and Consultant are discussing a project that is near its completion.

What did we learn from the Client/Consultant interaction?

  • The relationship appeared to be good and the client happy with the consultant’s work at the start
  • How quickly the relationship can be damaged by surprising news that puts one party in a corner
  • Both parties focused on being right and their demands led to an escalation of the conflict and a stalemate

Now let’s look at how this situation could have been handled differently in the second video:

So while this discussion didn’t yet reach resolution, the parties are still talking. The main differences were:

  •  The focus on the benefits of keeping control of the outcome vs. the risks of escalating the decision-making
  •  Explaining the sequence of events and acknowledging ownership of actions but not casting blame
  •  Exploring potential options for solutions rather than making demands

Of course, this all could have been avoided if there had been documented agreement for the work before it was started. Scope Change Guidelines should be agreed upon at the start of any project including:

  • Set up a Scope Change procedure in the contract and document it in the project management plan
  • If the procedure includes an option for doing work and negotiating later, then there needs to be a method for documenting and tracking the work, and a basis for payment.
  • The procedure should be communicated to both Client and Consultant teams for all to follow.
  • The project scope should be communicated to Client and Consultant team members so all will know when potential work is in or out of scope.

“A verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”

Samuel Goldwyn

Join this conversation by sharing your experiences with defining client expectations and needs on projects or check out our Project Management Training Page for more information.