Scope Creep. It happens to ALL of us.

What Does Scope Creep Look Like?The negative impact of scope creep on projects is a well-documented fact. Scope changes – no matter how small or large – can affect the timeline and cost of a project. Whether it’s new requirements being added or modifications of existing requirements, scope creep is the source of a lot of project management headaches.

But how does scope creep impact on-going work? Unlike projects, ongoing work typically doesn’t have parameters driven by deadlines and budgets, making it harder to identify. It doesn’t mean it’s not happening – it just makes it really hard to understand the impact and do something about.

Recognizing Personal Scope Creep

To get a handle on it, let’s put aside everything we know about scope creep at the project level for a moment and bring it right down to the individual. After all, scope itself is an inanimate thing.  It can’t creep.  Not all by itself, it can’t.  If scope is creeping, it’s because someone is creeping it.

And that ‘someone’ is you and me. How many times have you been to the grocery store with the intent of buying just one or two items and left with an entire cart load of extra things you need?

It happens to all of us, despite our best intentions. And I’ll guarantee that it can happen with any type of work too – from software development to marketing to construction. That temptation to do a bit more or just make it that little bit better is often too hard to resist.

At the individual level, this kind of scope creep seems harmless; we can easily convince ourselves that we’re doing the business a favor by going the extra mile. But those numerous small changes add up, costing the business A LOT in missed opportunity.

If you want to improve your team’s overall performance, then first you need to recognize that scope creep is happening. Our marketing team here at LeanKit has been facing this painful truth recently. As a team of ten we realized that if we all keep pushing the parameters of our work just a little bit everyday then we’re ultimately slowing the team – and the organization – down.

When you’re in the moment and all fired up about what you’re working on, the temptation to do more can be overpowering. So here are 5 tips we’ve come up with to try and minimize personal scope creep.

Keep Your Scope Under Control

  1. Make sure you’re clear about what’s expected before you start doing the work. Don’t assume you understand the scope; the only way to find out is by collaborating with the person responsible for approving the work.
  2. Clearly define the ‘definition of done’. It’s OK to share your ideas of how you’d like to make it bigger and better; but then you need to scale it back and agree what makes sense to do now.
  3. Document what you’ve agreed to. We eat the dogfood here, so it’s all captured in the card on our LeanKit board. It avoids misunderstandings, keeps us honest and lets everyone else know the scope of the work too.
  4. Communicate early and often. As you complete stages of the work, check back to see if it’s on track or if you’ve veered off course. No one likes having to do major rework later.
  5. Hold each other accountable within the team. If you’ve documented what you said you’d do, then your team members should be willing to ask ‘So why are you adding whistles and bells?’

For our team it comes down to how much faster our throughout put could be and how much more we could get done if we all stay true to the ‘definition of done’.

It takes a lot of self-discipline, but if you remind yourself that by doing less you’re actually doing more for your organization it’s not as hard as it seems. Throw in some accountability, collaboration, and a good tool to help you manage it, and you’ll be well on your way.

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