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Analyzing Scope Creep
By Torey Diggs

I am currently involved in a project that is at the beginning stages of scope creep. At the current school I work at, our leadership team consists of teacher leaders and administrators. Our teacher leaders three summers ago started creating a collaborative team manual to help drive the mission of our school, which is to increase student achievement by working in collaborative teams. For the most part the administrators are not involved in the process except by only providing a framework of what they would like us to work during the summer months. The project was supposed to be a three stage project that would be fully implemented in three years.

In the first year, the goal of the project was to create the language for the manual and start setting guidelines on how to accomplish the mission and goals of our school. During the second year of work on the manual, the project goal was to hone in on the Response to intervention (RTI) section of our manual and revise the manual to provide more detailed insight on how our teams are to work together using RTI to achieve our school mission. That brings us to this summer coming up, the last year of the project. As during past summers, the administration provided us with the framework of what they want us to work on for this summer: Collaborative teaming accountability, specifically with grading practice and RTI. Once the project manager that runs the summer work got the objective, they began to start working on an agenda of what we need to do during the summer and soliciting new teacher leaders to the project team to work on the this summer objectives.

Last week I went to the project manager to talk about some ideas I came up with referring to grading practices, and I was told that some things has changed. The project manager said that the administration team is now looking to change the mission of the school because they felt it needed updating. On top of that, she said that five veteran team members who were supposed to work on the project during the summer had to back out because of other obligations. Then to top it off she said that we was going to have to change some days we work during the summer because summer school was going to be held in our school and the rooms we need will be in use on the days we had originally planned. When she told me this, the only thing that went through my mind is “SCOPE CREEP.”

What specific scope creep issues occurred?

There are two major reason scope creep began to set in:

  1. The primary stakeholder wanting to change the mission two-thirds of the way into the project.
  2. The Project manager non-communication to all stakeholders involved in the project.

How did you or other stakeholders deal with those issues at the time?

Because of these major changes, you had some project team members who have backed out of the summer work for this year. One team member who was working on a survey to administer to all teachers before the summer break came was now confused as to what the motive of the survey should be about. The project manager of this project began to worry because she had already planned an agenda for the summer work, but now that agenda needed to be revised almost entirely.

What could be done to better manage these issues and control the scope of the project?

If I was the project manager of this project, I would of tried to convince the primary stakeholder that a change in the mission at this point of a project would make us have to go back and change many of the resources that had already been created, thereby increasing the cost and duration of this project. If I could get the primary stakeholder to not change the mission that would help keep the project within the original project scope and hopefully help make the project a success. Lynch and Roecker (2007) explained that the project manager must “try to contain changes to the project scope when that is possible and manage changes when they must occur” (p.96).

If the primary stakeholder had said the mission change must occur then my first action to manage this change would have been to formally document the changes to the scope of project and make sure to communicate these changes to all stakeholders (Greer, 2010). There was no “change control system” (Portny et. al., 2008, p.346) in place for this project. If I could start this project over, I would have made it a priority to create a formalized plan to help with any changes that might have occurred during the duration of the project. Then if changes had occur it would have been a lot less stressful in communicating these changes to all stakeholders and would of help decrease the likelihood of scope creep.


  • Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.
  • Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

  • Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery, and management. London: Routledge. Copyright by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Torey Diggs is an intervention specialist and Chemistry teacher in northern Virginia. He is also pursing a degree in Instructional Design & Technology with Walden University. You can read more from Torey on his blog.

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