Analyzing Scope Creep
Scope creep plagues most projects and is a major reason for time and cost overrun (Lynch & Roecker, 2007). It is something I have been well acquainted with for years, although I did not realize it had a name and could be controlled. Scope creep refers to the uncontrolled changes in a project that are outside the defined project plan (Lynch & Roecker, 2007). Scope creep is a natural tendency of both client and team members to add to the project in order to improve the final product (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer, 2008). My observation is that creative team members and perfectionists tend to be exceedingly adept at incorporating scope creep into any project with the best of intentions. Being creative with strong perfectionist tendencies, I find I am often my own worst enemy when it comes to scope creep.
This week our assignment is to analyze a project with issues related to scope creep. Although targeted to readers in a comparatively narrow interest group, a blog is a public forum, which I feel limits my discussion of projects that divulge proprietary information or client confidentiality. In light of this constraint, I want to share and analyze the scope creep of a personal project, a do-it-yourself redecorating of my kitchen. The need being addressed was updating the kitchen before a wedding shower. The scope was limited to removing outdated red wallpaper in the kitchen, eating area, and adjoining hallway and then painting the walls a lighter color that would flow with the adjoining rooms. Two weekends were allowed for the project, one for removing the wallpaper as well as priming the walls and the second for painting. The budget was adequate for the paint and rollers needed and my husband was available to help.
The first scope creep issue was an unanticipated. When removing the wallpaper three additional layers of old wallpaper were discovered. These had to be removed before painting or the seam lines would show. To allow for the additional work time, we decided we could maintain the timeline by rearranging the evening schedules for the following week to finish the paper removal and priming to bready to paint as planned on the second weekend.
That might have worked, except for another unanticipated scope issue. The bottom layer of wallpaper had been glued to unprimed sheetrock at the time the house was built. It was very labor intensive to remove and unfortunately some of the sheetrock’s fiberboard came off with the paper, leaving a very uneven surface. This required mudding to level the surface, as well as sanding and further coats of mudding and more sanding. In addition to being extremely messy and involving extra clean up time, this issue extended the schedule a week past the original timeline.
As the walls began to look better the old counter began to look worse. It too needed to be updated. Granite counter tops and a tile back splash were considered, but would not fit within budget constraints. They were relegated to a future project. However, as a temporary cosmetic improvement painting the counter tops was added to the scope of the project. It appeared to be a simple four-step process that could be completed within the course of a week, which would leave a week before the shower date. Although this item added another week to the original timeline, it was only a moderate increase in the budget to purchase special primer, paint, and a sealer. According to Portny, et al (2008), projects using new approaches pose increased risk to completing a project product on time and within budget. This proved to be the case. The first step, sanding, went well. The second step, priming the counter top seemed to go well. However, after letting the primer dry for 24 hours, the painting began and an unexpected problem appeared. All the brush strokes in the primer showed and looked awful when covered with the paint. When the paint dried, we had to re-sand the counters and re-prime them using a small foam roller. When the primer dried in another 24 hours, it was smooth enough paint the counter again. After another 24 hour drying time we applied the sealer, which led to another change in scope.
Never having applied acrylic sealer to counter tops, I rolled the sealer with a foam roller as the instructions recommended. When it did not look even I rerolled the area just as I would when applying paint to the wall. Unfortunately this caused large areas cloudy streaking. Hoping it would look better as it dried, I waited out the 48-hour curing time. It still looked terrible. The best affordable option seemed to be to try again. This involved purchasing a third can of primer and paint, taking two days of vacation from work, and sanding every thing back down to begin again. The counters did turn out well after the third attempt. The kitchen was finished in time for the shower, although the counter tops were still in the curing stage and acquired a few marks from heavier objects that were placed on them.
“Scope control involves trying to contain changes to a project when that is possible and managing changes when they occur” (Lynch & Roecker, 2007, p. 96). In reflecting on this project, I feel we managed the unanticipated changes that occurred, but could have controlled the expansion changes better. While this was an informal project, adapting a formal change control process would have made dealing with the scope creep more effective and less distressing. According to Portny, et al. (2008), the purpose of a change control system is to: (1) review requested changes; (2) identify potential impact of changes; (3) project how the impact will change the performance, schedule, and budget; (4) evaluate the advantages and drawbacks of the changes; (5) evaluate alternatives; (6) institute an approval process; (7) communicate changes; (8) ensure proper implementation; and (9) prepare summary reports of change impact to the project. In my decorating project it would have been helpful to identify the potential impact of the painting the counter before the shower and how associated risks could impact the performance, schedule, and budget. Evaluating alternatives as well as potential drawbacks and advantages would have also been beneficial. Doing so would have probably provided the objectivity to see that painting the counters should have been a separate project that could have been done after the shower without costing the steep price of two vacation days.
Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery, and management. London: Routledge. Copyright by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.