Scope creep. Project managers know it well. It’s when the expected outcome of work expands well beyond the original agreement.
It happens often in business and too often in our personal lives. We enlist others on our idea or project, only to change it up—often at the last minute.
I’ll ask my wife, for instance, to join me on a quick errand. Before long, I’m off chasing a new idea that emerged at the last stop, with my gracious hostage along for the ride. It was more than she bargained for. She married a scope creeper.
You may be a scope creeper too—and not even know it.
Any number of things can create scope creep. A legitimate change in your business or personal circumstances may require a change in scope. Or, perhaps, you may not have done your homework to determine the effort required to implement that idea or project. Or, maybe your creative juices started flowing after seeing the project take shape and you just can’t wait to implement your new ideas. As Meryl Streep’s character said in the movie Postcards from the Edge, “Instant gratification takes too long.”
Regardless of the reason, scope creep almost always takes its toll on the party doing the work. How you interact with those whose commitments you secured reveals whether you’re an effective leader, or merely a scope creeper.
Here’s the rub, however. The creeped upon will rarely tell you that they feel take advantage of, especially in your personal world. Instead, they’ll start distancing themselves from you or begin to erect other defenses.
I’ve been on both sides of this transaction: creeper and creeped upon. So, I’ve devised a short test to to keep myself in check:
Think about your last agreement with someone that got a little larger than originally planned. For each question below, give yourself a point for every question you answer “yes” to. Be honest. Think of this test as your self-awareness friend. (Everyone else knows your score already anyway.)
- Were you slow to discuss the desired changes with the other party?
- Did you fail to offer them ample time to evaluate the impact of the requested changes?
- Did you assume they’ll do the additional work without renegotiating their commitment?
- Were you upset if they declined the additional work or sought to renegotiate?
- Did you fail to explore creative alternatives with other party that might meet both of your needs?
- Did you neglect to ask how you can personally help?
- Did the change in scope arise because of procrastination or other negligence on your part?
- Did you hold back discussing any of your expectations when you sought the original agreement?
- Do you find yourself less willing to work with those who have set boundaries with you in the past?
- Are you unwilling to renegotiate with others who may have initiated the new requirements on you?
If you’ve just discovered you’re a creeper, take heart. Those you’ve crept upon are more than likely very eager to help you improve. Talk over few of these questions with them. You may even find them lining up to work with you again.
What other questions would you suggest considering?