Rein in Runaway Projects

One of the biggest barriers to any project’’s success is “scope creep”— – changing requirements that come without corresponding budget and deadline adjustments. The key
to managing that is to stay in control.

First, define objectives. In writing, set out the scope of the project, and ask both internal and external customers to review, revise and sign off on that plan before you begin.

Then, plan for change. Start with the expectation that the project plans are not written in stone, and create a system for handling change requests using these strategies:

  • Specify from the beginning that any new request must come with a change-request form that includes a cost-benefit analysis. Determine who will hold the authority to approve changes.
  • Boost your time and cost estimates by 15% to 20%, and you gain breathing room to handle inevitable changes.
  • Keep priorities in sight. Draft a list of the critical success factors for the project. Along with that, post the budget, deadlines and feature requirements in a place where you can refer to them often as you decide how to proceed.
  • Work the plan. Even for a single-person project, use a spreadsheet to create a management plan that details the work you must complete for each stage, from training through documentation. The bigger the project, the more detail you need.

Result: With clearly established change processes in place, you maintain control.

– Adapted from “”Preventing Scope Creep in Project Management,”” Rick Cusolito, Boston University Corporate Education Center.

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