The Monster in the Office

There is a monster in my office. His name is Scope Creep, and he is one nasty little fellow. He manages to squeeze his ugly butt into almost every branding project, and ruin it.  He’s not just my enemy. He’s yours, too. He is responsible for bloated budgets, cost overrun and lots of headaches for everyone. Chances are you have seen this monster many times. It’s just that, until now, you never knew his real name.

Scope creep is the natural tendency of projects to grow in size and scope once they have started. Usually, these changes start slowly and are very small – they have a tendency to sneak up on you, hence the word “creep”. But as your projects get under way, you’ll find that the unexpected increase in size and complexity makes it harder and harder to manage the work flow. More and more stuff gets added on. Extra work piles up as goals and expectations grow. Soon, ambition and aspiration overtake both your budget and your ability to handle the project.

The worst part of scope creep is that it often leads to changes and additions that don’t improve the end result. Few projects benefit from changing focus and direction once they are under way, and most of them just end up missing budget limits, deadlines, or both. Some never recover and don’t get finished at all.

Often, avoiding scope creep is a simple matter of better communication. Far too often both parties are in such a rush to get the deal done, that they enter into an unholy marriage of mutual praise and deception that only leads to resentment in the long run.

So how do we get rid of the monster that is killing our projects? Simple: as a client, you should be realistic about your ambitions and your available resources.  Stick to the plan you have envisioned, and don’t get dazzled by brighter lights along the way.  And as a provider of services, you need to be equally realistic about what your client truly needs. Hiding extra fees in the fine print at the bottom of the contract, or omitting extra costs that you know will be incurred along the way, is both unrealistic and unfair to all parties involved.

It is as simple as that: you can kill the monster by talking about him. Always discuss what the purpose of the project is with all parties involved. Talk honestly about what is included and what is not. And always realize that what you want and what you need may not actually be the same thing.

Luuk F. van Heerde