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President Of TrainSmart, Inc.

Let’s face it. Scope creep happens. And, all the planning and good intentions in the world will not protect you from that moment when you have to decide whether to allow the creep, or crush it.

The real issue is just how creepy it’s going to get and whether can you manage it in a way that allows you to maintain the client relationship (if, when all is said and done, that’s what you want), create a product that you are proud of, and deliver the product that is in the positive column of your profit and loss statement.

When doing an AAR, After Action Review, teams often realize that the foundations of scope creep were building before the project even began. Here are some steps to take to avoid “Project Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda.”

Step One – Set Clear Expectations. It’s Amazingly Not Obvious

This seems so basic that it always embarrassing when we discover (too late) that the real problem was that we were working on a set off assumptions and the client had a slightly, but costly, different translation of those assumptions. When a project begins, be sure to set clear, agreed upon expectations. Make sure those expectations are in writing and that both the client and Subject Matter Expert sign off on those expectations.

What we’ve learned is that a client’s understanding of the expectations and the SME’s can be dramatically different. Getting them on the same page before the project begins, may push back the start of the project while they are ironing out their differences but that inconvenience is absolutely outweighed by making sure the client and SME’s objectives are aligned.

Step Two- Hold a Change Process Conversation

Some changes are just that, changes. Other changes pack the punch of a tsunami. Regardless of its size, someone is going to be unhappy with each and every change. You can count on that.

Because of the potential damage that changes gone wild can have to the relationship, deadline, pride in product, and ROI, it’s important prior to the project launch to have a meeting devoted exclusively to the change process. That may feel excessive and sometimes it’s not realistic, but it is the ideal. It puts the client on alert that you take scope changes very seriously.

Clients may balk at the extra time or necessity to have this meeting, particularly if they have worked with you in the past, but it’s like being a professional athlete who needs to go to spring training camp before the new season. The pros know you have to get in shape before each and every season. The same is true for every project.

The agenda for the meeting should include:

  • Define roles and responsibilities including sign-off procedures
  • Ensure understanding and intent of the Change Request process
  • Detail the impacts of change once the process has begun
  • Establish tracking and communication processes

Step Three – Sign The Change Process Agreement Document.

Step Four – Track, Report, Repeat Again

It takes skill, discipline and patience to maintain accurate records for the project status, as well as cost and expense records. That means everyone on the team must be aware and follow the processes to make sure information is accurate and up-to-date. One chink in the chain can have the ripple effect of a stone skimming a pond. Throughout the project, clients need to sign off of at key milestones to document they are aware of the progress, issues, and status of the project.

Step Five – Execute Change Requests

Any time there is need to deviate from the agreed to process, it’s mandatory to execute a Change Request that spells out exactly what the change is as well as implications to the deadline and budget. Both the client and consultant need to sign the agreement. Sometimes just seeing the bottom line implications of a desired change will create enough of a pause that a less dramatic change can be introduced.


Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!