There are a lot of changes that can happen in a project that have a relatively low impact, but changes that impact your scope ripple through your project and become magnified. Scope screep is sneaky and it often happens when you least suspect. Here’s a primer on containing it.
Changes to a project’s scope can be managed or unmanaged. Unmanaged changes to scope are often referred to as scope creep. Scope creep occurs when the amount of work expands after the project plan has been agreed upon and approved. One of the ways this occurs is through team members interacting with users or stakeholders and informally agreeing to changes outside of project meetings. Another way this occurs is when executives or your project sponsor insert work into the project after the plan is set.
Your first line of defense is to make it clear to your team that the only changes to the work of the project that are made are those discussed and agreed upon in project team meetings. Your scope of work is modified when a proposed change is approved and incorporated into the project plan. For instance, if you have a permanent budget variance, you (you, the team, project sponsor, stakeholders) may decide to reduce the scope of the project so that the final budget is closer to the planned budget. This would indicate that budget is least flexible and scope is somewhat (or most) flexible.