How to Identify Scope Creep and Stop It

Every project has three critical components to its success:

  • A start and end date
  • A reasonable plan for how to get it done
  • A well-defined scope 

Regardless of the size of the project, every project requires a scope of what to build and how to build to it, within the agreed timeframe. But as with most plans, Murphy’s Law will always throw a wrench in your plans (i.e. even with the best plans, something is bound to go wrong). And one of the things that can go wrong very quickly is the scope of the project. 

Most project managers are familiar with the sense of dread that often accompanies the statement “do you know what would be nice?”. That simple statement can turn a very simple, straightforward project into a huge, complex one in little no time. 

Of course, a project manager should be amenable to ideas and changes that can help the project become even better. But at what cost? This is where you need to find and maintain the right balance. 

Some changes often come with increased scope creep. And an increased scope creep can derail project deadlines, balloon budgets, interfere with collaborations, lower team morale, and basically slow down or stall a project. 

So how can you prevent this from happening?

Start With the Goal

What’s the goal of the project? What’s the scope of work? Which team member is handling what and for how long? What’s the project delivery’s timeline? These are questions that you need to keep asking. 

How frequently you do this depends on you. Smart project managers are able to shepherd their projects to success because they keep this objective visible at all times. With a clear, visible goal, team members are more likely to stay on track, as would you.

Accept Modifications Within Reason

As you work on the project, there will be challenges, obstacles, and bottlenecks that you have to overcome to move the project forward. This is where you’ll need to deploy your problem-solving skills. 

And sometimes, solving a problem involves a few additions or new iterations. Welcome and implement these ideas within reason. If it doesn’t contribute to the original goal, it doesn’t matter how good the new “feature” is, you may need to jettison the idea for something more practical. 

Track Everything

This is where you’ll need to use a project management software. After clearly outlining and documenting every project requirement, you need to track each aspect of the project, monitor the teams, highlight and celebrate milestones and basically, keep everything moving. 

Tracking helps you see the individual teams’ progress, as well as where they are in relation to their goals. Using the right project management tool, you can measure their rate of progress and compare it to your initial time and resource estimates. This will help you see if the project is on track for the delivery timeline or not. 


It’s possible to fight and prevent scope creep if you are clear with your goals from the get-go. Just remember to have some change control processes in place as the project moves forward, and make sure that the team is always on track to meet your pre-determined schedule. If you need help with managing your project, reducing scope creep, and meeting project deadlines, our team at Arithmetic can help. Visit [Redacted] to book a discovery call or [Redacted] to leave us a message and we’ll call you back.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.