According to a Pulse of The Profession survey and report of 2,428 project management practitioners, some of the most common reasons for project failure included:

  • Inaccurate requirements (38 percent)
  • poor communication (30 percent)
  • undefined project goals (30 percent)

When you combine all of those elements together, you get what’s called scope creep.

You don’t usually notice it happening in the moment. But after rehashing the same points during your failed project’s post-mortem meeting, you realize your project went far beyond its original scope.

And you’re not the only one who’s had it happen.

The same Pulse of The Profession survey found 45 percent of projects completed within the last 12 months experienced it.

So, how do you prevent scope creep in project management? Keep reading for some of our best pointers.

Create A Scope Agreement In Writing

A scope agreement keeps all stakeholders aware of the project scope, goals, and objectives.

When you put it in writing, it can also be a useful document you (and your client) can refer to throughout the course of your project.

You can even include a process for changing scope, in case your project objectives have to expand to reach bigger goals.

According to an article in Raconteur, “All projects undergo change and change implications should be reported against this baseline so the project management team can project the likely outturn cost at any point in time.”

Some of the causes of scope creep are lapses in communication and undefined project terms. A written scope agreement leaves no room for any of that ambiguity in your project.

Clearly Outline Your Deliverables

One of the warning signs of scope creep in project management is when you’re working on tasks that aren’t related to a clearly outlined deliverable from the current scope.

If a certain task isn’t bringing you closer to a deliverable, then you should re-evaluate whether the task is necessary to complete at all.

This is why it helps to have clear deliverables — and deadlines for them, too — to keep you working towards your goals.

After all, it’s easy to get sidetracked and start working on irrelevant tasks, especially when you have a large team to manage.

It’s also normal for proposed deliverables to change over time, but pay attention to how these minor changes affect the scope of the deliverable.

Understand Where You Are Within Your Budget

An easy way to see if your project is staying within its scope is by taking a look at your budget.

Specifically, take note of whether you’re within your budget and if the amount you’ve spent matches completed tasks.

A practical way to do this is to take a look at your team’s timesheets. The bulk of any project’s budget normally goes to manpower, so viewing timesheets is an invaluable way of seeing if scope creep has set in.

Something that can cause unforeseen scope creep is project spin, the act of burning budget on a project without making progress. Close monitoring of project costs coupled with team feedback would clearly indicate that costs are increasing, while project status is stagnant.

If you’ve ever experienced scope creep before, you know how time related expenses can get out of control. Try to monitor your team’s timesheets in real-time, if possible. This will give you the best chance of a true understanding of where your project stands, which can help diagnose if scope creep has set in or not.

To conclude, preventing scope creep is all about being detailed in your project planning and scope creation, holding yourself and your client to those agreements, and tracking your progress towards those agreements in real-time. If you can do these three things well, you’ll have a good chance of avoiding scope creep. If you ever want to chat about scope creep or anything else related to project management, drop us a line at