Managing Scope Creep

Posted: February 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

Shared via Standard YouTube License

When you read the words scope creep, you may be reminded of some cheesy, thrills and chills, campy horror movie from the 1950’s…well, that is if you’re old enough or lucky enough to have watched these fun flicks! However, the creep I am referring to today is scope creep, a project management term which can be defined as, “The natural tendency of the client, as well as project team members, to try to improve the project’s output as the project progresses” (Portny et al., 2008).  And while trying to improve the work being done may sound like a good thing, it is often problematic as it is a major cause of a project exceeding the budget and time constraints (Lynch & Roecker, 2007).  I recounted a great example of an experience that I had with scope creep a couple of blog posts ago—would have been perfect for this particular assignment!  But I have thought of another.  As with the prior example, this experience was related to a job I did working on a cookbook.

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This was my first cookbook, The Everything® Vegan Baking Cookbook (Novak Bull, 2012), and as it was my first experiencing writing a cookbook I had a huge learning curve to traverse.  The editor knew this was my first time and she worked with me pretty well to ensure that I understood what had to be done and how to do it.  The timeline was extremely short, only six months to write the content chapters, glossary, appendices, side bars, and 300 recipes, not to mention that I didn’t really know anything about vegan baking!!!  I knew a lot about vegan cooking…but baking was not my forte.  So that was another learning curve with which I had to contend.  Any recipe testing had to be done within this six month period as well.  In addition to the writing, I had to learn how to use the coding system to create each line in the manuscript.  So much to learn.  Yikes!  Then, a couple of months into the project they changed the coding system for the manuscript.  Yes. They really did.  Fortunately I did not have to re-do the work I had done at that point…the editor took care of that.  So here’s where scope creep reared it’s head.  I received a call from the editor who was very excited to tell me that my project had been approved to include a photograph section, something that was not typical for the Everything® series of books that I had done work on in the past.  Well, I was excited too!  Until a short time later when it became clear that there was not a person somewhere in a test kitchen who would bake select items for photographs.  No, I was expected to decide which 25 items to bake (in sufficient quantities), cart them to the photographer (who ended up being in Los Angeles–a 120 mile round trip), and then help style the food so that it would look great during the photo shoot.  Oh, and then cart stuff back home.

I ended up having to go out to LA on two different nights.  I had no assistant, so with the planning, shopping, baking, and clean up, plus the two days going to LA to do the photo shoots, this took up almost two weeks of the time I was for writing the book and I already had too little time! Oh, did I mention that I work full-time and I have some pretty time-intense family obligations?  Most of my work on the book took place outside of my normal work hours, although as the deadline loomed closer I ended up using quite a bit of my vacation time to get it all done, along with a few 20-hour marathon sessions right at the end.  But, I digress—back to the scope creep issue of the food photography.  A couple of weeks is a tremendous amount of time to lose to a scope creep issue when the six-month deadline is already unreasonable.  And there was no increase in what I was paid for the project to complete this task, as I recall.  What I have learned this week about scope creep is that it is bound to happen, and this type of change can impact the budget, the timeline, and the quality of the deliverables of a project.  Perhaps with more knowledge and experience, I could have negotiated for more time, or more money (maybe I could have hired an assistant for a short time), or maybe I could have just said “no”…well, I probably could not have refused, but on a future project I will hopefully be able to not only recognize when I should say no, but also manage the impact on the project appropriately when the change or additional work is unavoidable. Scope Creep…it’s what is lurking in the shadows of every project…

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References

Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful

design, delivery, and management. London: Routledge.

Novak Bull, L. (2012). The Everything® Vegan Baking Cookbook. Avon, MA: F+W Media.

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.

videojaxx. (2008, May 16). The Crawling Eye — 1958 Trailer. Retrieved on February 13, 2014 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDGwCMcLs_M

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Comments
  1. Hello there Shinyspecks,

    I look forward to following your Blog. I think this will be a very positive journey we take as we learn from one another.

    ~Chuck~

  2. Hi Lorena,
    This was certainly a good example of scope creep.

    Like you my response to scope creep demands for higher quality is to spend more time on it. I recall a comment by Dr. Stolovitch in the Laureate video “Monitoring Projects”. He speaks about prioritizing tasks and delegating. Sometimes I wish I had spent the money (if I had it) rather than the time which a commodity I cannot regain. As for the delegating, sometimes we are a “team” of one.

  3. Hi Lorena,

    You certainly could have used some more help on this project. This week we learned that the project manager is responsible for the budget as well as keeping up with all stakeholders and team members. My question to you is did you have a budget?

    In the future if you work with this publisher again would you ask for more people to assist in the photography and cooking of the food items?

    Your blog was very attention grabbing and kept me captivated.

    Angela

  4. bebedezign says:

    Wow Lorena,
    Every project can encounter scope creep, I like how you said, ” Perhaps with more knowledge and experience, I could have negotiated for more time, or more money (maybe I could have hired an assistant for a short time), or maybe I could have just said “no”…well, I probably could not have refused, but on a future project I will hopefully be able to not only recognize when I should say no, but also manage the impact on the project appropriately when the change or additional work is unavoidable.”
    This puts me in the mind that as people we need to remain organize, be flexible, adjust, able to resolve, and efficiently handle issues that would normal sidetrack or derail the most situations. Our adaptability to accept and adjust is the most critical tool to use against project scope creep.
    Thanks for sharing and allowing me to share.
    Bridget
    Reference
    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.

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