How to Manage Scope Creep

By Shawn Stinson
Nov 1, 2021

If you haven’t experienced scope creep, you haven’t lived!

It’s like walking outside with no shoes on during a Minnesota snowstorm. The sudden and immediate sensation you feel when you realize what’s happened leaves you breathless. Before we get started on how to manage scope creep, let’s define what scope creep is.


What’s Scope Creep?

Scope creep is when someone makes a request or demand beyond what was previously agreed upon. This usually happens when expectations aren’t clearly set earlier in the onboarding process.

How does this sound, you ask? Like this:


“Hey, could you do this for me?” 


“Oh, and while you’re at it, can you also take a look at (insert scope creep request).”


Next thing you know, your list of tasks just doubled, and you’re left scratching your head like Charlie Brown wondering what just happened.

Here are a couple of suggestions to help you avoid a Charlie Brown moment and decrease the chances of scope creep.


Get Those Expectations Set

The most important thing your onboarding team can do when they get a new client from the sales team is to create a detailed visual of your onboarding plan. 

Present this plan to your client in a kickoff meeting, and discuss any questions or concerns before the project begins to ensure you didn’t miss anything important that the client was expecting. 

If there are significant gaps between the client’s expectations and what is in the contract, you may need to involve your sales team to resolve those things in advance. It’s critical that the plan is visual. The fact is, people think they know what they want until they see it. I have seen this time and time again.

Here’s a generic daily example that can easily be translated to any professional deliverable.


“Honey, what should I wear today?”

“I don’t care.”

“Should I wear this?”

“No, wear that other one.”


Once they see what the options are they undoubtedly will have additions to or changes to make, or opinions to share. Leveraging a visual plan of your steps, milestones, and key tasks will help you flush out the plan earlier rather than later.


Make a Plan for Scope Creep

Sometimes, you just can’t avoid scope creep. So build it into your plan.

If your customer wants something more that wasn’t discussed earlier, introduce a section for these “additions” in your kickoff. If you’re using a project management or client onboarding software, make a milestone for future considerations. This way, you can evaluate these additions with your customer later and stay focused on the standard onboarding deliverables. With the right technology in place, you can even start tracking and identifying common themes that your customers ask for.


Be Transparent

One of the biggest challenges during a client project is transparency. If done right, your upfront transparency can proactively mitigate the potential scope creep. 

It’s common for a vendor’s set up to allow unlimited internal communication and collaboration among your team members. An unfortunate side effect is that clients tend to be left in the dark when it comes to the project schedule, process, and tasks. This can be so frustrating, especially when clients feel like nothing’s happening. This is how demands are made outside the scope of the project.

My advice? Build methods and tools into your process that allow you to include clients in the project management process. Let them see a project overview, progress indicators, and tasks along the way. 

This also removes the extra work for you or someone on your team who’s constantly keeping the client informed through manual reports, emails, or phone calls. 


Scope creep is sometimes inevitable, but if you learn how to manage scope creep, you can keep projects on track while keeping clients happy.


For more project management pain points, click here.

Shawn Stinson
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