Analyzing Scope Creep

This week I was asked to discuss a topic that brings fear into the hearts of the even the most harden veteran instructional designers, that topic is scope creep! Scope creep is as Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007) explain “uncontrollable changes in the requirement of the course as defined in the scope definition of the project management plan” (p. 96). Scope creep can happen with any project no matter the size and it has happened to me in the past. The project that was affected I have talked about in earlier posts, it was the testing center rules project that I got to witness firsthand the devastating power of scope creep. The project I was tasked with was to clean up the many organizations my institution had on are Blackboard server. What I needed to do was to find and contact the leaders of the different organizations and then verify if they were still using the organization or if it could be deleted. I was given a workable schedule and I proceeded with the project. The problem that occurred was that I did not intended for the long delay in response to my email asking if the organization was still in use. I wanted to wait to receive verification from all the organizations before I proceeded into the next step of clearing the organizations and preparing them for deletion. So I waited to hear back from the leaders and that caused me precious time. Needless to say I did complete the project but it was only after I had seriously gone over my schedule. In the future if this were to happen again instead of waiting to hear from all the leaders I would begin preparing the organizations I had received verification from for deletion instead of waiting for all the organizations to verify before proceeding to the next step. I would also set milestones in which I would communicate with my boss what was happening and inform him of the delay in response. I think this would allow my boss to stay informed and possibly help the situation by providing ideas for other forms of contact with the leaders.


Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery, and management. London: Routledge


5 thoughts on “Analyzing Scope Creep

  1. Great post Daniel. We experience a problem similar to this at my school every year. This year many teachers were so frustrated that they quit using Blackboard and switched to another LMS, blog, or wikki.

    What happens at our school is that teachers move to different teams. When they do, they are not granted access to the new blackboard site. The administrator of the site has to delete their old account. Sometimes the administrators of sites leave our school and no one can log in to make changes. I can understand the frustration you had.

  2. Angie says:

    Hi Daniel. As you mentioned, waiting to hear back from stakeholders can cost us critical time in our projects. I think one way to avoid this scope creep problem is by creating two things mentioned in our text: a signed scope with stakeholder timeframe expectations clearly defined and a detailed schedule (Portney, et al., 2008). Though it is true that they can still delay progress, we have leverage with the signed document to say, “These were the agreed to expectations.” It might be good on a project like this to also give definite deadlines for their response, including a statement on your next action if they don’t respond on time (like “we will assume you no longer need the organization site and it will be delete on xx/xx/xx). Sometimes deadlines help push people to action.


    Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, & S. M., Sutton, M. M. (2008). Project Management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

  3. Sriya Krishnamoorthy says:

    This is an important lesson to learn: Project management is not often a linear process. Staying within the prescribed time and cost constraints often calls for a significant amount of multitasking. Rosenau & Githens (2005) suggest that multitasking allows for employees to contribute more to a variety of projects; thus, empowering those employees and building a solid experience base. Your thoughts are appreciated.

    Rosenau, M.D. & Githens, G.D. (2005). Successful project management. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

  4. Daniel, this is a very interesting situation and I find that the lessons you learned are very important. Learning to keep upper management in the loop is critical to any PM’s success I feel because you never know when you will need help with the project on a higher level. Only upper management can approve major changes to a project or get you help when you need it most. Having that good relationship with your managers is crucial to success because of the sometimes problematic nature of managing a project. Keeping focus on the possibility of changes and knowing who you can turn to when you need help making them will keep you from getting overwhelmed.


  5. Daniel, Your post did a great job of illustrating the impact of one of the most important constraints–other people’s contribution to your project. It can be frustrating to have outside entities contribute to scope creep simply due to their not being responsive or available.

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