Managing scope and project creep as an interim manager
Scope creep in projects and interim assignments are common to the point of being practically inevitable. This usually happens as a result of changes being made to a project as it progresses, or if an interim manager’s skillset is adopted in a slightly different way than set out in the original brief. If well-communicated and managed, scope creep is by no means insurmountable, but can cause issues if badly handled or if it goes well beyond an initial assignment or project brief without the necessary changes to contracts.
An adaptable interim will no doubt be able to meet this challenge, although the deliverables for the project or assignment should be reassessed and new contracts drawn up if the changes are significant.
What causes scope creep in a project?
Projects often change over time dependent on factors both within and beyond the business’ control, such as:
- If better solutions present themselves during the project, or if unforeseen challenges occur
- Budgetary changes due to economic fluctuations or business-specific financial changes
- New and improved technology emerging throughout the process
- Business analytics highlighting necessary changes in tack
Scope creep may also occur at the individual rather than project level. For example, an interim manager might be deployed for one particular set of skills, and (re)deployed within another area of the department or business due to the range of their abilities. Given the adaptable nature of interims, this isn’t surprising and is not that uncommon.
What are the effects of scope creep?
Project scope creep can result in longer than expected timeframes and varying budgets. As the interim, this may mean longer hours and more work, and possible resentment if it’s felt this is poorly managed or inadequately compensated.
How to handle scope changes in project management
While it’s expected that an interim will be adaptable and generally willing, understanding what parameters are reasonable and what to do if not, will ensure any scope changes are manageable and deliverable.
Define a process for addressing scope creep
Scope creep is common so how to address it if it occurs should be defined at the start of the project or assignment. This should include assigning someone who will be responsible for reviewing and agreeing changes, and pre-agreed boundaries for number, cost, and time of changes.
The project should always start with a meeting to include all concerned parties and participants, as this offers the opportunity to potential back up plans should scope creep occur.
Contract/Statement of Work
Any significant changes to scope should be reflected in a new contract and/or statement of work, this will ensure you are compensated fairly for your work and also makes sure your work is judged by measurable outcomes that are already defined, otherwise it can be harder to quantify results.
Good communication is vital
Potential negative effects of scope creep can be mitigated by successful communication – if all parties are clear on changes and expectations, the project or assignment should be able to carry on smoothly. Changes may occur within those undertaking the project but if there is a failure to communicate this upwards or throughout the rest of the business, it risks being poorly received, or lacking authorisation for elements such as budget.
Understand that it is perfectly acceptable as an interim to establish your own boundaries and parameters when it comes to scope creep. Adaptability and a willingness to undertake what is necessary to achieve the desired outcomes of the project is part of the interim’s job, however, it is perfectly reasonable to say no if:
- It extends beyond the brief unreasonably
- Changes aren’t covered by updated contract or statement of work
- The changes lack clear direction and/or risk positive outcomes for the project
- Tasks and skills expected that are above and beyond the assignment level without readjusted pay scales
How can we help?
We work closely with interim managers, businesses and consultancy firms to support their growth goals, matching the best professionals to exciting opportunities and assignments. If you wish to discuss interim management opportunities contact our specialist interim recruitment team.