Analyzing Scope Creep

As a physical education teacher, our department is supported by a network of support staff. This staff includes locker room attendants and custodians who do everything from monitor/unlock lockers to clean gyms at the end of the day.  So about five years ago, during the holiday season, our department, which consisted of nine teachers, wanted to thank them by giving them a holiday lunch.  The plan was to invite twenty-five people, decorate a special lunch space for the holidays and we, the teachers, prepare and serve the food to them.  The goal was just to thank the support staff for all the work they do for us throughout the year. All nine teachers began planning for the event, three weeks before it was to take place.  We agreed to meet three times prior to the event in order to update one another about the progress of the party planning.  At the first meeting, we unanimously agreed to send the invitations out ASAP and determined what food each one of us were planning on bringing to the party.  At the Week 2 meeting, someone had brought up the suggestion that our department is supported by more than just the locker room attendants and custodians.  The school nurses, administration, departmental secretaries and social workers also do help us with our students.  So eleven days before the event, we decided to invite an additional fifty more people to our party. At this time, all nine teachers reevaluated who was bringing in what food and how much more we had to bring in order to make sure we had ample amount of food.  At the week 3 meeting, a different teacher imagined a totally different set-up of food and a completely new idea for decorations.  Somehow, all of us agreed that these were better ideas than what we previously decided upon. We then had a forty minute re-evaluation meeting of who was bringing in what, where it was to go in the room and what new decorations were going to be going up. Party day came and we were still decorating, running to the grocery store and scrambling for extra seating all the way through the entire party.  My colleges and I agreed that the party was a huge headache that could have been entirely avoided.

Looking back on the experience now, if I would have been in the position of managing the project, there are a number of things I would have done differently.  First and foremost, there was no leader of this project.  A “project manager” would have needed to be elected to run and coordinate activities, emails and determine a time line for activity completion.  We had many problems with this project most notably the additional fifty guests and the last minute change of decorations.  “The natural tendency of the client and team members to try to improve the project’s output” which is also known as scope creep (Portny, Mantel,  Meredith,  Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, p. 346). This is a perfect description of what happened in this situation.  We, as teachers, wanted to put on the best thank you possible. We thought each idea was better than the first.  Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer (2008), believe that with every project change there needs to be a change order (in this case emails) that includes a description of the agreed upon change and any other changes to the plan, process, budget or schedule. Dr. Stolovitch (n.d.) discussed in this week’s media presentation that when overseeing projects, one should include periodic status reports to all stakeholders (teachers), plan a weekly project review, talk with those having difficulties or those succeeding and communicate with all team members regularly.  A good project manager would have been able to manage the scope creep, however, keep the project going without complete overhaul of our game plan every time we met.

We still host this annual event and our next party is Tuesday, December 12th.  We have the party down to a science with who we invite, what are theme will be and who is brining what.  We do now have “project manager,” a timeline and are thanked profoundly by each guest.  It is now an event we all look forward to every holiday season.

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.

Stolovitch, R. (n.d.). Monitoring projects. Retrieved December 7, 2011 from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=6051999&Survey=1&47=7555398&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Joe T.
    Dec 11, 2011 @ 20:30:25

    Jennifer,

    I appreciate your story and sharing your personal experiences with how they relate to our current project management course. You certainly would have benefited from someone stepping into the leadership role. In my experience leadership comes naturally to leaders. This makes me wonder who came up with the idea of the party in the first place and why they hadn’t assumed more control?
    “The natural tendency of the client and team members to try to improve the project’s output” which is also known as scope creep (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, p. 346). While this is true, it seems that increasing the number of attendees three fold should have been out of the question. A good learder would have nixed this idea immediately. The biggest problem that I see occuring in your story was a lack of a project plan. The team needed a formal plan that described the anticipated roles team members would play and the amount and effort team members would have to invest. It is good to note that the amount of people increased but the time line stayed the same. It seems that the team bit off a little more than it cold chew, it could have chewed more if there was a little more effort.

    Thanks!!

    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.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: