Scope Creep Overview

Topics Covered on the PMP® Certification Exam

Scope creep is when the project stretches beyond its original vision. There are continuous incremental changes that cause the project to grow without proper authorization.

  • What the are the common reasons for scope creep?
  • How do you prevent scope creep in your current project?
  • Can you as a project manager be responsible for creating scope creep?

Learn the answer to these questions as free preparation for our PMP® training in NYC.

What is Scope Creek and Why is it Important?

An essential skill of any project manager is to manage change.  During the life of the project there is constant change. It can be a change in requirements, change in management, etc. Managing those changes are crucial to prevent scope creep. Scope creep is when the project stretches beyond its original vision.   There are continuous incremental changes that cause the project to grow without proper authorization. To prevent scope creep, you need to have a clear understanding of what scope is. The scope is part of the planning that outlines everything that needs to be achieved for the project. More importantly, the scope defines what is not part of the project. For example, if your scope is to paint the entire hallway, installing new carpet would not be part of the scope. The scope is defined in the project scope statement which defines those boundaries.

We all experience scope creep in our daily lives. Let's review a simple example. On Saturday, you make a list of errands you need to run, one of those errands is buying a few grocery items. You also jot down that you have a 2:00 PM doctor's appointment. Before going to the grocery store, you make a list of items you need to purchase, have an idea of how much you want to spend as well as how long you can spend so that you are not late to your doctor’s
appointment. In the end, you purchased many more items than what you had listed, you exceeded your budget by $60 and ended up 15 minutes late to your doctor's appointment because you left the grocery store late.


Scope creep can happen for several reasons. The addition or change in stakeholders. Small change requests that become larger ones, these normally will come up when you are in a meeting with the stakeholders. When the scope is not clearly defined at the start of the project, there is a strong likelihood for scope creep to occur. This is often experienced when change requests come through and a determination cannot be made as to whether it should have been part of the original project scope.

Another factor is lack of stakeholder involvement. This is one of the leading cause of scope creep.   Stakeholder involvement is crucial in decision-making. If the stakeholder is not involved, the decision making will fall upon the project team. There is no way to determine if they made the right decision. Requirements Two stakeholders may have requirements; however, one requirement can be very detailed and the other extremely vague. This inconsistency in requirements will become a likely reason for the project to be out of scope. Many of times the project team is compelled to make decisions without a complete understanding of the requirements. This is a frequent problem in projects with multiple stakeholders. Each stakeholder has their own notions of the project's direction. In the end, the project manager tries to please everyone, which results in project failure.

Scope Management Process

The lack of a scope management process is cause for scope creep. Stakeholders may request a change at a project meeting. For example, a stakeholder may circumvent you and decide they are going to add some additional furniture to the team room. There is no documenting of this change nor is there any review if it impacts the overall design. Similarly, if the project team runs into a bottleneck and needs to expand scope, there is no one on the client's side to help. They might end up adding new features that help them wrap up the project, but which the client neither needs nor wants.

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