Scope creep (also called requirement creep, function creep, or kitchen sink syndrome) in project management refers to changes, continuous or uncontrolled growth in a project's scope, at any point after the project begins. This can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled. - Wikipedia.
The notion of creep is key, it’s not always the large changes that destroy the project, it’s the small incremental changes that balloon into tears and recriminations, to use a mixed metaphor.
“Kitchen Sink Syndrome” is also appropriate as everyone tries to fit everything they can think of into the project after budgets and timelines have been agreed.
How to Stop Scope Creep?
Identifying the creep is key, it usually starts pretty benignly with “ What about…” or “Can we just...” or “It would be great if…” and ends with blown timelines and budgets. Stay vigilant, be aware of the innocuous sounding queries about features, the “can we just” comments.
Have a process for recording and reviewing changes, even if it’s just a shared document, that is reviewed at update meetings.
At Kindleman, we manage our projects in Basecamp, we breakdown the project into ToDo lists and ToDo items which include a date and name. That way, everyone knows who's responsible. This process also give us the flexibility to add new items into the lists which everyone can see and comment on. Basecamp items are Drag & Drop for ease or ordering and reordering. Which leads us to the next point.
Forms, Sign-offs, Documentation
Write it down and circulate it. Sometimes even the thought of documentation is enough to kill the idea and if it doesn't, there is now a document to define the concept.
We document additional items in Basecamp and give them their own 'special' list - Phase 2. More on that later.
Budgets and timelines
Open and honest communication about budgets and timelines. “Of course, we can do it but it all costs time and money.” Make sure everyone knows it.
Firm but Fair
There are always going to be ideas that will really add more to the project. If you can make positive small changes that will benefit the project without compromising the deadline or dollars, go for it. Stay firm on the big changes be fair on the little ones.
We love to be able to add little moments of 'ah' for our clients. So being able to include some last minute ideas is always satisfying but we always apply the firm but fair rule.
Finally Phase 2. Don’t be afraid to add things to the next phase. Finishing the project is only the beginning of the life cycle of the product, website, application. Keep going, adding, iterating, improving.
We always add a Phase 2 lists to our Basecamp. This allows us to managed additional requests by adding them into the Phase 2 bucket. If time allows we can move items back into other ToDo lists. Read more about how we manage complex projects.
Have a digital project that needs additional help and project management? Drop us a line.