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When Scope Creeps, Don't Keep it on the Down Low

Today, we are going to have a brutally honest discussion about scope creep. To prepare you for this discussion, I’d like you to take a deep breath and repeat after me while spinning counter-clockwise: scope creep happens. Scope creep happens. Scope creep happens. Now, take another deep breath, channel your inner TLC (the 90s hip hop group featuring T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chilli - not the TV network), and say-sing this aloud: when scope creeps / yeah / don’t keep it on the down low.

As good stewards of client investment dollars, small business owners naturally aim to deliver a project under budget and ahead of schedule. What happens, though, when things begin to go off the rails? We truly feel that the best way to get back on track is to communicate clearly and openly with project drivers. Whatever you do, don’t keep it on the down low as this will harbor confusion and resentment on both sides when the resources required bubble over your estimate.

The first sign of scope creep should be a call to arms for everyone involved. Sit down with your client and outline why completing the project will require more (wo)man hours and dollars before you start additional work. In our experience, scope creep often stems from a client getting excited about a project coming to fruition and wanting to add more to your list...much like what happens to us when we go to Target for dog treats and leave armed with everything necessary to redecorate a living room. (The bullseye made us do it.) All of that is to say, the additional work can be positive for both parties IF you get ahead of it. What will make your client's head pop off and roll across the floor (rightfully so...) is if you complete the additional work and hit them with an "oh by the way" surcharge.

Now that we are all comfortable with the fact that scope creep happens (because this is real life, folks), let’s talk preventative measures:

  • Have a complete and full grasp of the project vision. Once you do, organize and present an overview to your client or project-driver and ask for comment.

  • Make an ordered list of the client's priorities that you can use to rationalize scheduling decisions once the project kicks off.

  • Provide a specific outline of deliverables to be approved by your client.

  • Break approved deliverables down into detailed work tasks.

  • Organize the project by major and minor milestones and create an overall project schedule to be approved by the project-drivers.

  • Once a project schedule is approved, assign resources and map critical path using a project evaluation and review technique (PERT) chart.

  • If you see scope creep on the horizon, present your client with options. Option A, stay the course and shave your wish list, or option B, tack on more lovelies with a higher price point. This approach ushers good will and helps your client feel they are in the know and in control of their project.

Have a new project that you are interested in taking on or a big proposal in the works, but don’t know where to start? Holler at your girls - we'd love to help!

RIP Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes. Thank you for instilling in us our lifetime ‘no scrubs’ rule.

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