“I am a self-inflicted scope-creeper! Arggh”

I love this confession that landed in my inbox from a client that I’m helping to plan and deliver projects.  So with their permission, I’m sharing my advice.


I am a self-inflicted scope-creeper! Arggh.

Scope creep describes the way that projects grow beyond their original definition/objectives –  it’s a risk for any project, and particularly creative ones.

When you’re working on something that you’re passionate about, and have a group of interesting people coming together, great ideas will be generated.  Not just at the start of a project, but throughout.  And this can be good.  Discussions will spark inspiration, observations and research will provide new perspectives, and there will always be the temptation to make the project even better.

But you also need to balance this with getting the work done.   If a project grows, it needs more time and often money.  So unless you can get either of these, you will need a way of deciding whether these new ideas can be incorporated.

Rejecting new ideas without consideration could impact team motivation and kill creativity, so some things to think about:

  • The original objectives of the project – does it align with the core goals or does it take you in a different direction?  A different direction could be good if the project wasn’t working in the first place, but ideally you’d be communicating and reviewing at regular points to ensure that a drastic change isn’t necessary
  • Whether it will really make the project better, or whether it’s just a ‘nice to have’. You might need to be firm with yourself and your team on this.  You could agree to deliver everything you originally planned to, and re-assess any additional ideas if there is time after that.
  • Whether it will impact your ability to deliver the project?  If the deadline is fixed, bringing in new ideas might mean you’ll have to sacrifice other areas and/or put additional pressure on yourself or others.  Make sure you’re honest about the additional work that will be created.

Develop a way for capturing new ideas, acknowledging them and then assessing whether they are brought into a project or not.  Online tools can be great for this:  1) having a space where the team can make suggestions to be discussed and explored at the next opportunity and 2) documenting the core project objectives so that everyone stays on track.

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