Well, I hadn’t . . . until recently.

Of course I turned to Google for help, and it  found 308,000 results in 0.23 seconds

I chose to view Wikipedia which said that:

Scope creep (also called focus creep, requirement creep, feature creep, function creep) in project management refers to uncontrolled changes in a project’s scope. This phenomenon can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled. It is generally considered a negative occurrence, and thus, should be avoided.”

Gosh, “focus creep”? or “feature creep”?  Now it’s beginning to sound interesting, or even fun.

So, anyway, it relates to Project Management (my current passion) and results when a project spreads (creeps) out of control.  Scope that has controlled creep is, of course, called planning; so, I guess scope that has uncontrolled creep could be called un-planning.


Programming consultant Shelley Doll says that scope creep can kill a project.  Yes, KILL.  Hmm what would a dead project look like?

  • Wasted resources.
  • Dis-heartened work-team.
  • Corporate credibility damaged.

Yep – with casualties like that, kill might be an apt descriptor.


I’m thinking – if your project scope was somewhat jelly-like . . . you would not care so much about creep(age) because sideways movement might fit within the jiggling wiggling project scope.

Let’s say my project is to obtain a holiday gift for my husband (a wild, completely fictitious example).  The holiday can be celebrated whenever I obtain the gift, there is no budget (hey, if it’s great, it’s worth the price), and the gift can be made or purchased.


Project management practitoner Vince Budrovich says that every project involves five things: 1. Time, 2. Resources, 3. Expertise, 4. Quality and, 5. Scope – which balances the other 4.
In my example: Time = Any, Resources = Any, Expertise = Me, Quality = Any and, Scope is No Problem.

You probably know what happens next, so, you can skip to the dramatic conclusion, if you want.  But you would miss the excitement of watching the jelly-like project slip off of the project management table an splat on the floor in an icky gooey mess.

Because what happens next is:

  • 0
  • Zero
  • Nothing
  • Nada
  • Nil

Yep, scope creep KILLed this project.  I hear you asking: Why? and How? and, How can this be prevented in future projects?  Well, let’s begin with time


Plan Element –  Time = any

  • Possible risk factor: Procrastination will be unending and the project will never begin
  • Chance of this happening: Very High
  • Strategy: Set a date (i.e.: December 25th) even if the date is irrelevant, having no date leads to having no forward movement

Plan Element – Resources: Any

  • Risk: I will be unable to focus my gift search and will waste time wandering through the shops
  • Analysis: Chance of wasting resources = High
  • Strategy: Create a fictitious price range (i.e.: $20 – $100) the range can be wide, so don’t waste the resource of time refining it – just pledge that you will keep within the range.  Forcing a price range on the project scope means that I will avoid the Dollar Store and Tiffany’s which will definitely limit the number of shops I will wander through.

Plan Element – Expertise = Any

  • Risk: I might make a bad decision (pay too much) or act rashly (buy too much) or conduct stress-induced-shopping (buy something he already has).
  • Analysis: Chance of paying too much = high; chance of buying too much = extremely high; chance of buying something he already has = low, but possible.
  • Strategy: Chat with a friend.  You don’t really expect the friend to be able to solidify the jelly-like project scope; but, chatting with someone will help you process the information and diminish the chance for scope creep.

Plan Element – Quality = Any

  • Risk: If I had a jelly-like project scope I would finally get to the point where I really really needed to buy a gift (i.e.: late on December 24th) and I would rush out, go anywhere, buy anything and give it with a ho-hum feeling.
  • Analysis: Chance of it being a low quality experience = extremely high; chance of it resulting in a low quality purchase = medium; chance of it not being the best gift he has ever received = pretty-darn high.
  • Strategy: For heaven’s sake – plan!


Dramatic conclusion (this is where those of you who skipped ahead can begin reading again):
You really need to watch out for scope creep – so,

  • Plan
  • Manage your plan
  • Define your plan elements
  • Don’t creep away from your plan

So, let’s: review those 5 elements, change the jello recipe to 50 packs gelatin per 1 cup hot water, and hit those malls.  And hey, be on the lookout for scope creep – let’s be safely planned out there.