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Taking the Creep out of Scope Creep

You’re faced with a choice: If you pick Door Number 1, you have to add 1 new feature to the service you are creating. If you pick Door Number 2, you have to add 2 new features to the service you are creating. And if you pick Door Number 3, you have to add 3 new features to the service you are creating!

Is this a bad dream? No, this is Attack of the Scope Creep!

This is certainly how it can feel on a bad day in Project Land, as though every time you turn around, you’re confronted with another demand. I read something a few years ago that turned this on its head for me:

“Scope creep is the pejorative name we give to the natural process by which clients discover what they really want.”

In other words, most people simply cannot imagine how a service will operate or what an interface will look like until they see it. This means that they will not be able to give meaningful feedback until they are working with the prototype (in the case of software) or the pilot (in the case of a human service). And this is only natural.

This has significant implications for project planning. First, we need to build into our plans adequate time for iterative prototyping and/or pilot phasing, and second, we need to adopt good processes for handling change requests. This last step includes good mechanisms for capturing information about the changes requested.

In a previous post about stakeholders, I claimed that setting up a rational decision-making path for change requests could save you time in the long run. This is what I had in mind. After all, the people asking for those extra features are going to be your stakeholders. They don’t actually mean to slow you down–in fact, they’d prefer you add all those extra features at twice the speed.

I’ve put together a short slide deck on taming scope creep, because I believe it can be done. Not the part about adding extra features at twice the speed, but the part about having a plan saving you time. I want to mention that the slides cover only the change process. It’s very important to couple this with the rapid prototyping I talked about earlier, because that’s how you will discover the new information in a format and on a schedule you can control. And that’s how you take the creep out of scope creep!