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What is Scope in Project Management? 
Work Management
Last modified date

Apr 10, 2023

6 Ways to Deal with Scope Creep

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Erika Rykun

Blog average read time

5 min

Last modified date

April 10, 2023

Every project should have an outlined project management plan before it even starts. This project management plan helps give clear direction on the project’s scope, timeline, tasks, and assignments.

However, there are many cases where unexpected additional tasks and changes happen in the middle of the project plan—an instance we call scope creep. I will discuss scope creep in the following article, including ways to avoid and deal with it.

What is Scope in Project Management? 

In project management, the scope is the extent to which a project should be done and tackled. It defines a specific project’s goals, deadlines, budget, and coverage and sets clear boundaries to do them effectively and efficiently.

What is Scope Creep? 

Scope creep happens when a project goes beyond its intended scope, from deliverables to project scope statements, budgets, or assignments. Whether small or uncontrollable changes, scope creep happens when a manager or project leader fails to assess the needs of a specific project which results in the additions of new features, additional deliverables, and a more extensive project coverage.

One may think that changing the scope of a project is not much of a big deal. While this can be true when the scope creep only changes a few deliverables, changing a project’s scope—big or small—can still have detrimental effects on the following:

  • Budget
  • Manpower
  • Deviating from objectives
  • Time allocation
  • Schedule
  • Resources

The dangerous thing about scope creep is that it can occur slowly and naturally—almost. As the name suggests, it creeps into your objectives and project, leaving you no choice but to deal with it with additional human resources and cost.

How does scope creep occur in team projects? 

Organizations want to avoid scope creep as much as possible. However, external factors such as customer requests and supplier availability sometimes make this challenging.

Examples of when scope creep can inevitably occur are when:

  • The customer requires changes for deliverables (i.e., quantity, quality of materials and output, deadline, etc.)
  • There are no available raw materials on the original request.
  • Management requires changes for the project.

Examples of when scope creep can occur but can otherwise be avoided are when:

  • Managers fail to outline a clear scope of work
  • Poor documentation of work
  • Project managers don’t have a definite goal for a project
  • Team members are not clearly informed of tasks and goals
  • There is a lack of prioritization
  • Unrealistic and vague deadlines and goals

How to Deal with Scope Creep 

Dealing with scope creep ultimately boils down to the core foundation of management—proper initiation, planning, execution, and monitoring. Here are some ways you can deal with scope creep before and when they start creeping into your projects:

1. Initiate a meeting 

Initiating a meeting means inviting all key personnel to build project plans, set directions, develop ideas, and create a clear goal for the project. Two heads are better than one, and more definitely means better.

When you collaborate with team members and pool ideas through strategic meetings, team members will feel more involved in the project and work better towards achieving the project goals.

Hosting a strategic meeting need not involve all staff and team members. You can invite sub-leaders or sub-managers to trickle down information for the rest of the team for more effective team communication.

According to Logan Mallory, VP of Motivosity,

“The single thing that keeps employees productive is making them feel involved. When they know they matter, even in the simplest things, they are more motivated to do their job to contribute to the organization’s overall goals.”

2. Set a clear project goal 

Setting a clear project goal means that all team members know their final destination—be it a product, an event, or a specific result.

When all team members know what they’re working towards, that means that they know their specific tasks, no matter how minute, and how it affects the project’s end goal. With a clear project goal in mind, chances of scope creep are minimal.

“When people know what they’re working towards—be it a goal, a degree or a result—they become highly motivated to stay on track and not deviate from it.”—Carson Lang, Co-Founder and COO of Test Prep Insight

3. Document all the details of the project 

This may sound tedious, but documenting a project’s details in an orderly and easy-to-navigate manner is the first step to making sure you don’t go beyond the scope of your work. As team leaders, these are usually the basics of a project manager’s career.

Documenting project details and requirements means that project managers must properly identify all the steps, the team members assigned, the time required for each task to finish, and the overall budget. This also includes communicating and confirming necessary project details with concerned external parties such as suppliers, customers, or regulatory agencies to ensure all information is correct and agreed upon.

Ensuring that all information on a project is documented, agreed upon, or, when necessary, signed lessens the chances of misunderstanding between parties leading to scope creep. These include:

  • Contracts
  • Purchase orders
  • Billing statements
  • Signed project plans

“There are many cases where lawsuits are involved because of unclear contracts between parties. Organizations must be clear and concise with information and utilize notarized contracts if necessary.”—Mark Pierce, CEO of Colorado LLC Attorney.

4. Create a clear schedule 

Scope creep is most often found in areas where project managers fail to outline goals, deadlines, and schedules.

Meeting schedules mean that each task contributing to the completion of a project is done efficiently and effectively, leaving no room for additional unnecessary work or additions and supplements to the project.

“Developing clear schedules helps avoid mismanagement of time and team members—both crucial factors in a team’s success.”—Jeremy Clifford, CEO of RouterCtrl.

5. Frequent Communication 

External stakeholders aren’t the only important individuals contributing to scope creep. All team members, top to bottom, contribute to the project’s success. When one or more fails or refuses to do their job, scope creep will likely happen.

It is important to constantly communicate information internally and ensure all team members are engaged with the project. For example, when third-party stakeholders request inevitable changes to the project, all team members must be made aware so that everyone can adjust accordingly, minimizing the effect of scope creep on the overall project.

When any team member suggests changes that can significantly affect a project, communicate such ideas to anyone with higher authority and evaluate their feasibility and effect. Commend the team member and adequately communicate the acceptance or denial of the proposition and the reason behind it.

Max Wühr, co-founder & CGO of FINN, states

“We place communication with our customers at the heart of our service as car subscription dealers. Between our customers and among our team members, proper communication helps us work towards a common goal and satisfy our customer’s needs.”

6. Create a change control process 

Scope creep is inevitable in many cases, and team managers must implement change control processes when it is impossible to deviate from an initial goal or schedule.

With a change control process in place, team leaders know precisely when and where change is necessary, avoiding changing those that need not be changed and documenting the start of the change process. A change control process mainly involves:

  • Change request. The person/party requesting a change makes the request.
  • Study the request. Concerned parties must carefully evaluate the impact of such change, its necessity, and its effect on existing controls, budget, manpower, schedule, and end goal.
  • Decision-making. The decision-making body subsequently approves or denies the request, stating the data involved for such approval or denial and communicating them with concerned parties.
  • Implementation. When the change request is approved, all affected individuals must carry out the revised plan based on the change control process.


Scope creep, as natural as it occurs, is hard to avoid, especially with external and internal factors that could affect the project as a whole. Also, avoid scope creep by having all your projects in a digital project management platform, like Paymo.

At the end of the day, dealing with scope creep ultimately boils down to proper project initiation, implementation, and execution—ensuring all stakeholders are well aware of their roles and contributions and how one trickle of change can contribute to the success or failure of the project.

Read more about project management methodologies or project management courses if you want to delve deeper.

First published on April 6, 2023.

Erika Rykun


Erika Rykun is a content strategist and producer who believes in the power of networking and quality writing. She’s an avid reader, writer, and runner.

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