Posts Tagged ‘scope creep’


My blog assignment this week is to select a project in which I have played a part and discuss the “project post-mortem” analysis.  Also called a post-project evaluation (Portny et al., 2008), the post-mortem analysis offers valuable information and learning opportunities regarding what went well with the project, and what could have been handled differently.   As an instructional design and technology student without real-world instructional design experience, I have wracked my brain all week trying to recall any project experience that would be suitable for this assignment.  Perhaps this one will do.  A couple of years ago, I performed some side jobs for a publisher in which I calculated the nutrition analysis of the recipes in a variety of cookbooks.  After having completed several of these jobs, I was brought into another book project as a technical reviewer.  This was a nutrition-related book written by an author with no nutrition-related credentials so the editors needed the expertise of a dietitian to ensure that the information in the book was current and correct.  Since I had never worked in the technical reviewer capacity before I asked several questions to clarify the expectations or scope of my part of the project and how this was to be done.  Knowing that this was within my ability to do, and excited about this new opportunity, I agreed to take the job.  From my previous experiences I knew that publishers/editors always seem to be in a crazy time-crunch, and this job was no different.  The timeframe to complete the technical review was very short for the amount of work to be done.  I knew that once I received the manuscript I would be in for some very long hours in the evenings after work and all weekend.  They gave me two weeks to read the entire manuscript in detail, research all of the information provided therein, provide suggestions, and make corrections to the manuscript where necessary.  Whew.

When I received the manuscript I wasted no time getting started.  I was quickly surprised at the high number of problems I encountered.  Not just incorrect information, but also outdated information, unsupported nutrition claims, etc.  But worst of all, some large sections of the manuscript seemed to misplaced and some were missing completely!  The majority of the manuscript was topic content, but there was also a recipe section which was organized according to various types of diets, e.g., low carbohydrate, vegetarian, diabetic, macrobiotic, and several others.  Even the recipes were jumbled about, with non-vegetarian recipes listed under the vegetarian section, or recipes with dairy products listed under the dairy-free section, and menu plans were incomplete.  It was a hot mess.  It appeared to me that the author of this shoddy manuscript had simply dropped the ball on the project.  So the manuscript I had been given was nowhere near ready for the contribution I was hired to provide.  When I notified the editor of my findings she seemed to confirm that the author had no interest in completing the manuscript.  It was then that I experienced the phenomenon that I now know to be scope creep (Portny et al, 2000).  Massive scope creep.  The editor asked if I would “fix” the manuscript.  When I hesitated (because it was a daunting task) she offered to increase my compensation by a couple hundred dollars and give me a few more days to do the work.  I reluctantly agreed, so my project role changed from technical reviewer to that of a seriously underpaid ghost writer.  It was during this portion of the job that I discovered several sections of content that had plagiarized…as if there weren’t already enough problems to handle!    Well, I did my best to “fix” the manuscript, essentially reorganizing and re-writing a large amount of the content.

Shortly after I submitted the final manuscript, exhausted and sick with the flu, scope creep reared its ugly head a second time when the editors asked me to create additional menu plans.  It was nearly 11:00 PM and they needed to have the menu plans done by morning when the manuscript was to be submitted for proofreading.  There was no more wiggle room for time.  I was worried that denying their request would harm my relationship with the publisher but I just couldn’t do anything more.  I was too exhausted and too sick.  I imagine they were probably up all night working to finish.  Fortunately, my relationship with the publisher was not damaged and I think they appreciated all the work I did.  And sometime after that, they hired me to write my first cookbook, and then a second.  Those experiences are stories in their own right.

So, what could have been handled differently?  Well, scope creep is a common occurrence in most projects (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009) and with more experience I would have known how to handle the situation without feeling like I had little choice.  Perhaps I could have negotiated for better compensation to complete the additional work.




Laureate Education Inc. (Stolovich, H.). (2009). Project Management Concerns: Scope Creep. [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.