Scope Creep In Project Management | How To Manage It?

Haleema Qayyum


Haleema Qayyum

Scope Creep In Project Management | How To Manage It?

Table of Contents

Scope creep of a project is also known as the “feature creep,” or even “requirement creep” of the project. It refers to how the requirements for any project increase with the increase in the overall project lifecycle. For example, a project that once began with only one deliverable now has five.

Similarly, a product that started with three significant features now has more than eight features. So, in the mid of any project, the needs of a customer change, and they require a reassessment of those requirements.

Scope creep in any project is mainly caused by the changes in requirements by the project stakeholders. In addition, it is also due to internal disagreements and miscommunications. The project managers always need to remember that change is inevitable.

Also, the needs of customers change over time. So if you deliver the project that meets their needs, it means that you are changing the scope of the project. Therefore, any professional project manager knows the probability of scope creep in any project and plans for it.

Common Causes of Scope Creep

The most common causes of scope creep are:

Causes of Scope Creep

Who Actually Causes Scope Creep?

It is essential to look at the whole project and know what the reason is for scope creeps in a project. You should also know who actually causing this? If you know who is causing the change, you can identify the problem early. In addition, you can decide your approach to resolve the issue.

Most of the time, managers think the client is causing the problem, but it’s not always the client. Scope creep in a project can occur due to various reasons. It can also be due to your internal team members who cause changes in the project scope.

The reasons due to which the project team causes scope creep are:

The Team Is Unclear About The Scope

The first reason that can cause scope creep in a project is that the project team is not clear about the scope. In addition, the team does not know what the actual scope of the project is. For avoiding such problems, the manager should ensure that the scope statement is clear to all team members.

In addition, make sure that all the deliverables and requirements are mentioned in the project plan.
Every member of the project team should be fully aware of the project scope, statement of work, and project deliverables.

Moreover, it is essential to involve the team members in the meetings and conversations relevant to the scope setting. However, if this is not possible, at least arrange one meeting with all team members.

Make sure to deliver the information about the project. Also, during the project, conduct regular inspections to keep everyone on the same page.

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Team Members Do Not Follow The Scope

The other reason that causes scope creep in the project is that sometimes team members do whatever they want to do. So, they do not follow what the requirement of the scope is. As they are personally involved in the project development, they consider the project as their own.

Therefore, it is useful to involve your project team to get their opinion and know what they will design. In addition, all members agree on the same opinion and work in the team. If one member does something beyond the scope of the project, it will cause friction in project design and scope.

Inappropriate Decisions

Sometimes, the team members encounter a problem and choose ways to solve it. They make decisions in a vacuum without even realizing that their decision can cause an impact on the project scope. During project development, even a small task can change the project scope.

Even if you add extra work for even a half-day, it could impact the rest of the project. For instance, if a UX person or designer decides to add some functionality on the project site without consulting with the developer, no one knows what its impact will be on the overall project scope?

Therefore, it is the responsibility of the project manager to set the team in a way that all members work together. In addition, the team members consult with each other and understand each other’s decisions.

When any member raises an issue or query with you, you need to share with everyone if it requires a bigger decision to be made.

Internal Stakeholders

Internal stakeholders can also influence changes in your project scope. Sometimes stakeholders have a broader vision for the organization, and they aim to deliver more for a project. In addition, it is also possible that the stakeholders might think of a different agenda.

For instance, sometimes, the relationship with the client is more important for the organization than staying within the project scope. In addition, it is also essential to make sure that your internal stakeholders are aware of your activities and know-how and when you are going to deliver the project.

Furthermore, if those decisions that are made by the stakeholders have a cumulative effect on your project, you need to clearly tell what the impact will be. Clearly, layout whether the impact will be perception-based, financial, or otherwise.


User testing is an essential part of your product setup or project setup. It is important because the feedback from the users can influence the events of project development and ultimately increase the project scope.

After getting the user’s feedback, you need to review the suggestions and recognize the essential changes that you need to implement.

In addition, prioritize those changes according to major to least impact on users. You also need to understand what changes you can easily incorporate without any scope creep.

3rd parties

Project scope creep can also be due to the dependencies on 3rd parties, external companies, and content providers. These dependencies occur when you rely on external parties to complete a project.

So, make sure to determine dependencies in your project and identify what could be possible effects on your projects.


Yes, clients have a major role in scope creep, and we cannot ignore them while discussing who is responsible for project scope creep. The easier impact that you can stop o your project scope is the influence of clients.

Moreover, sometimes clients start to interfere in the project scope, and their small demands continue to pile up that affecting the overall project. So, you should be straightforward with them and tell them if their demand can cause scope creep.

How To Avoid?

Changes in the scope of any project can be controlled or uncontrolled. Controlled changes can be due to the changes in the documented project requirements.

On the other hand, uncontrolled changes can be due to scope creep. So, it is essential to manage these changes with the help of a change control process. The process includes:

  • Monitoring the baseline scope and project status.
  • Using variance analysis and comparing measurements of actual work performance with the baseline scope.
  • Variance analysis helps to determine how the current project is different from the original plan.
  • Determining the degree and cause of the changes found.
  • Determine whether preventive or corrective actions are required to manage change requests.
  • Manage all requests for changes and recommend suitable actions.
  • You can also use the Change Control process of Perform Integration.

Also, consider whether the approval of change requests can affect the cost baseline and overall scope of the project or not.

If it affects, then the project manager needs to update the work breakdown structure, scope statement, and cost baseline and send these details to the stakeholders. In short, the manager has to process, document, and communicate each detail to the stakeholders.

Examples of Project scope creep

If you are a project manager and want to avoid scope creep in your project, you need to consider these examples.

There is a company that is introducing a phone case. The company has a plan to launch the phone case from start to finish. However, during the development process, the CEO of the company and the team decided to add a battery pack, a ring light, and various other elements to the phone case.

These changes demand extra time from the project team. Thus, it results in the delay of the launch of the product and also affects the attendant revenue. If we look into the real-world example of project scope creep, the example of Denver International Airport (DIA) is well-known.

The management has decided to establish a fully functional automatic baggage handling structure which results in scope creep. Due to scope creep, the project managers have to change more than 2000 designs for the airport development.

In the change of designs process, they didn’t involve any relevant party and avoid fundamental concerns in the planning stage. Thus, due to the scope creep, the project was 250% beyond the estimated budget and completed 16 months late than the decided deadline.

From this instance, it is clear that communication with all the relevant parties and key stakeholders is important. Communication is important for project managers in every phase from the start to the end of the project, but it is significant at the initial planning stage.

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Five Frequently Asked Questions

What is scope creep?

A scope creep can be defined as the changes in the project scope to meet the changing needs of the customer. It looks simple at the beginning, but it can affect the overall project. So, it is essential for the project manager to remain open about the project creep with the clients and plan for it beforehand.

How do you identify scope creep?

If you didn’t get your desired variable, the milestone is not achieved, the project manager shows the least interest in the project development, or the team members are confused about their tasks, then there is a high chance of project scope creep.

Can scope creep be a good thing?

Scope creep can affect the overall project. Even though it is not good for any project, there is always pressure on the project managers to increase the scope. So the manager should plan for it to properly manage the scope creep and provide significant opportunities to the organization.

What is another word for scope creep?

The other words used for scope creep are kitchen sink syndrome or requirement creep. In project management, it refers to continuous changes or uncontrolled growth in a project’s scope. It can be at any point after it begins.

What’s the opposite of scope creep?

The opposite of scope creep is scope crush.

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