With all its types and causes, scope creep can be a real pain in the neck. It creeps up on you when you’re not looking, and once it’s there, it’s hard to address. If you want to nip it in the bud, it’s a good idea to learn the difference between all four distinct buckets that scope creep fits into: business creep, effort creep, hope creep, and feature creep. Each of these types of scope creep has its own prescription for how to deal with it effectively.
This type of scope creep occurs when stakeholders or your organization changes goals and priorities, creating a new business environment. You may not be ready for it, which means you will have to fix issues before even fully understanding them.
For example, a stakeholder may decide to impress the target audience, and that would put a heavy burden on the team members who simply do not have the resources to finish the project. The solution could be some extra financial input and a broader timeframe, but only on the condition that you know the new requirements well.
Changes can also include new people involved in the project, and new people will probably have their own ideas about things going on. You may need to have a discussion with them to make sure you both want to reach the same goals and see the same desired outcome. Everybody has to know what they are responsible for, so clarify the roles.
Have you ever had a dream where you’re desperately trying to run but your body refuses to listen, and you can hardly move? This is similar to effort creep: you put so much effort, but don’t make any progress. Your frustration grows like mushrooms after rain, as well as your anxiety. You feel ashamed and worthless. Not the best feelings to live through, right?
Effort creep can be caused by over-optimism: we often underestimate the amount of effort needed. It may not even be the fault of the team; sometimes business owners or developers lack the details about the project scope, and make the wrong estimates. In any case, if you see you’re falling behind, don’t panic. Make a pause and think about what you can do to improve the situation. Think if there is an easier way to fix the problem.
Another reason for this type of scope creep is a simple lack of skills and knowledge. Working with a tool or technology you’ve never used before, you will have to spend some time learning it. But don’t confuse yourself: start with something small, ask for support from a subject matter expert… or simply don’t do things that are not within your area of expertise.
Where there is life, there is hope. But hope should never turn into pink unicorn fantasies. Believing that you can meet a deadline that is physically impossible to meet is pretty infantile. An attempt to make others happy without a real background can lead to reality denial and hiding the truth… yes, that’s called lying.
Nobody is perfect. If you don’t let yourself make mistakes, trying to keep face, you will eventually suffer emotional exhaustion. Don’t overpromise. We all need acceptance and approval, but these should not be received through false impressions. Failures are not the end of the world, they just mean you’ve got space for improving. Everyone on the team should have the freedom to rise and fall and feel secure because no one will judge them.
Hoping for the better, and not actually doing anything to make things happen, you can lose control over the situation. For example, you don’t talk to your team members and have no idea that they’re struggling with problems; you don’t talk to the client either, hoping that there are no problems at all. What would be the result? Right, a lot of anger and shame.
This type of creep, also known as gold plating, refers to adding unnecessary details to the product when no one asked for them. It is similar to scope creep but the difference is that feature creep is never accidental: you add features deliberately, often with good intentions. Adding one thing, you will want to add one more, and eventually, you can find yourself buried under a ton of tasks… that may never get paid.
Even though gold plating can result from overexcitement, a more common reason for it is a fuzzy understanding of the client’s vision, which makes us deliver more and more details, hoping to satisfy his requirements.
Offering something on top of what has been agreed upon, you risk losing two things: time and money. Obviously, more features always mean more time, and if you combine this with poor management skills, you will get an especially dreadful mix. As for money, there is no guarantee your client will be willing to pay for the feature; even more, he may decide to stop the project, and you won’t get paid for the part you’ve already done.
Any subtle deviations from the original project scope lead to scope creep, and if you don’t react to those properly and on time, you will pay a high price. As you can see, scope creep can be different in nature, and each type is pretty unique. Analyzing what exactly is preventing you from completing your project, you get more chances to save resources – and actually complete it.