The Complete Guide to Identify and Avoid Project Scope Creep

7 min readJan 25, 2020

Nowadays whenever we hear the word “Creep”, it never means anything good. That word doesn’t get any positivity in this article either. Project scope creep is a different type of “creep” but it’s still very sneaky and harmful to your project, nonetheless.

In this article we are going to answer the following questions:

  • What exactly is a scope creep?
  • How it can damage the project?
  • How to get rid of it when it occurs?

Now let us start from the very beginning.

What exactly is a scope creep?

Well, scope creep is a situation that arises when the pre-defined features, scope, and deliverables of a project expand from their preset conditions without being adjusted for in budget or additional time. It is a very real threat that can affect any fixed scope project.

The odds of this situation to arise are very high because of the fact that it can happen both on purpose and unintentionally. As there are a lot of actors involved in the project development, scope creep can stem from any one of those actors, making it very common and damaging.

Scope creep is so damaging because it can effectively cripple the project or shut it down completely. How? Well, let’s say that you introduce some new changes in the development phase, and you get the team to work on them.

If these changes do not align with the time frame dedicated to the project and the budget specified for the whole endeavor, you would burn through the money and that too without delivering the complete project that you would’ve done without these changes.

Who are the people, most commonly involved in causing a Scope Creep?

At this point in the article, you have an idea about what a scope creep is, but now we are going to focus on the actual actors involved in causing one.

This will help you gain knowledge about the roles of all of the actors involved in the project development and how you can prevent them from causing a scope creep. Let’s take a look.

1. Team Member

Yes, team members. It’s not always the clients that are responsible for outrageous changes in the project that can essentially break it, it can be the internal team members too. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons your team members can cause a scope creep:

It is a real shame for the project manager if their team members are unclear about the project statement and the scope of the project. These are the initial necessities of the project that should be transferred and nailed properly in the minds of all of the members involved in the project.

To make sure that this transfer of information happens properly, the project managers should ensure that at the very start of the project, all of the needs and requirements of the project, and all of the milestones and deliverables of the project are properly outlined, and everyone associated to the project is aware of them.

When the scope of the project is being nailed down, all of the associated stakeholders should be involved in this conversation.

If that is unlikely and there are bound to be some blank spaces that can’t be filled, you can run a kick-off meeting with the whole team which will let them all know what is going on with the project and what is about to happen.

Then, during the development of the project, you have to make sure that you keep all of the stakeholders in the loop as much as you can so there are no blank spaces and everyone is crystal clear about what is going on, what is going to happen and what they have to do.

People are very impressionable socially and even in their work lives. If the team members are not getting enough attention from their project managers, that means that they won’t be content with the scope and vision of the project, and they would want to develop things differently. A good PM will stop that.

As a project manager, you have to ensure that all of the team members are getting enough attention through personal interaction or recurring meetings about the project so that no one can get any funny ideas about doing things differently.

Often the team members would want to develop functionality, but they would not consult the other concerned parties about the changes in question. This is very dangerous for the project.

For example, if a designer decides that they want to add functionality without consulting the developer, it can badly derail the project from its predefined scope and tank the whole operation.

Always endorse communication among the team members through different communication channels or recurring meetings, so that everyone is on the same page and there are no blank spaces.

2. Internal Stakeholders

The senior stakeholders of your company can have a big influence on your project scope. They can have any type of reasonable to outrageous demand or a feature to be added to the project but whichever type of change it is, you will have to deal with its production in the end.

So, if you want to play it safe and not get caught in a tough conversation later on with the senior partners, evaluate the impact of that change yourself and if it is going to create a liability then you must inform the senior stakeholders about the change’s impact on the scope and budget.

This will create a sense of trust and stability among all of the stakeholders involved and you won’t have to worry about any unaccounted changes being done.

User testing is a very important part of the project development phase. Having users provide feedback in the beta testing phase can have a huge impact on the project. But often users demand different features to be added to the project scope. And weighing the importance of the user, you can’t ignore their request.

What you can do in this situation, is that you can have your team draft up the impacts of the features being suggested by the clients.

If they are feasible and are falling under the budget and scope, have them incorporate it into the project but if they are not falling under the scope, you should take the clients into confidence and explain the situation to them.

Another thing to do is to make sure that you understand all of the impacts and repercussions of the changes that were presented but were NOT implemented.

If you are in total control of your project, you can breathe easily in the development phase, but if you are relying on any 3 rdparty or some other external stakeholder, then you have to be pretty vigilant about the work they are doing.

You have to make all of your project deliverables and milestones crystal clear before you start working on your project. After that, you will have to keep in mind all of the impacts these deliverables can have on your project scope.

This will help you keep the work of the external stakeholders in check and protect your project from harm.

5. Project Manager

One of the biggest impacts on the project scope can be done by the Project Manager. How can that happen when they are the person in control of the whole shindig?

Well, the project managers sometimes get temptations about adding new features to your project without talking to the clients or other stakeholders. These temptations often turn out to be successes, but it can be a difficult conversation to change the minds of the stakeholders and make them agree.

Also, the project managers are supposed to report the liabilities and any impending issues to the stakeholders, so that there are no surprises later on when there won’t be any room for error and the project will fail.

Causes of Scope Creeps

The following are 10 of the most common causes of scope creeps. Let’s take a look:

  1. Project Scope is not clear
  2. Flimsy Client Agreement
  3. Keeping the client outside the loop of information
  4. Raising late alarms on issues
  5. More time required by the quality assurance team than previously discussed
  6. The features of the project are not prioritized
  7. The stakeholders not agreeing on a unified way to handle change
  8. Poor estimation
  9. Not questioning new requests
  10. Low user engagement at the start

What are the ways you can use to manage scope creeps?

The following are the 5 core ways you can use to manage scope creeps. They are, but not limited to:

  • Analyze and track all of the impacts: As a project manager, you are in a position to track and monitor all of the features and their impacts from the start to the end, so it’s your job to work out the liabilities and work to get rid of them before they even happen
  • Prioritize your tasks: You should figure out what requests are necessary to accommodate and then descope your vision to envelop those requests
  • Be proactive: You should be upfront from the start of the project and you should agree on a change management system that will determine the changes and agree to them throughout the project
  • Embrace the changes: If you have no option but to incorporate some outrageous request, embrace it, work out what’s absolutely necessary for your product and envelop your scope around it
  • Be transparent: You should be transparent and honest to your clients and stakeholders about the scope creeps from the very start of the project so as to avoid any unpleasant conversations later


Scope Creeps are generally a complete menace because they have the tendency to completely derail or cripple the project completely, at times. But if your team co-ordination and level of trust are at a higher level, you can take them positively too.

How? Well, they are changes in disguise and not all changes are that bad. If you have the time and budget to incorporate those changes in your project scope, then there is no harm in that.

Just make sure to track and monitor the changes and their impacts on the project and if you see no liabilities then go for it.

Originally published at on January 25, 2020.




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