Preventing Projects from Going Sideways

Your project is humming along when, without warning, the scope expands. In the consulting world, this may or may not be a good thing. Within organizations, however, scope creep can be a real problem—usually hurting the bottom line.

The secret to controlling scope creep is to control it from day one of the project. This means ensuring that you thoroughly understand the project’s deliverables and carefully tracking that all efforts go into only those deliverables. As soon as you notice work being done outside of the scope, stop the project. Examine why things are off track and work on re-focusing the project.

To help you successfully control your project’s scope, follow these five rules.

  1. Understand the project. Before writing the project charter, make sure you understand (really understand) the project’s deliverables. Ask for and make sure you get all the information you need to understand the project.
  2. Build a Gantt chart complete with time and resources. Understanding the tasks involved in the project is critical to writing the project charter. This includes anticipated timelines and resources for each task. A Gantt chart can be a powerful tool for visualizing the project’s work requirements at a glance.
  3. Write the project charter. With Gantt chart in hand, you can now write the project charter. The charter should include relevant information that both you and the team can use to manage the project. This includes: definition of the project scope (what is and is not included in the project – be specific), project assumptions, project objectives and deliverables, project organizational scope, project timeframe, project team and other stakeholders, risk management strategies, project communication plan, and a project change management plan.
  4. Work on the project based on the approved project charter.
  5. Manage project changes using the strategies outlined in the project charter.

A final word: Expect that there will be scope creep. Sometimes projects evolve into bigger undertakings as they progress. This is not a problem as long as you manage the change effectively. Refer to your project charter for appropriate change management measures. This includes obtaining necessary approvals and adjusting your timelines and resources before continuing with the project.

By keeping everyone informed about project progress on a regular (usually monthly) basis, potential changes or problems can be caught early and the project adjusted, accordingly.

Here’s to your project’s success!