How Scope Creep Negatively Impacts Project Success (& How to Fix It)

There’s nothing more frustrating to a project manager than witnessing the slow, painful death of a healthy project to the beast known as scope creep. When last minute changes transform their straightforward, A-to-B project plan into a sprawling mess of up-ended sprint plans and gold-plated feature requests, branching out in all directions with no concern for time or resources.

In one extreme example, the head contractor for the extension of a city library ended up actually suing their client in a scope-creep induced rage, claiming that their almost 55-week delay was a direct result of the large number of last minute changes.

In order for a project to be successfully completed on time, the project manager and their team need to agree on a clearly defined project scope before getting started.

However, life isn’t so straight forward and changes to the project will inevitably need to happen.

But additional problems can arise if the changes aren’t dealt with properly.

Scope creep can quietly sneak its way into your project and set your team down an unproductive and self-destructive path, wasting your company’s resources, missing deadlines, weakening team communication and, ultimately, ruining any chance of your project’s success.

So what can you do to avoid this fate, and overcome scope creep once and for all?

In this Process Street article, we’ll be covering everything you need to know scope creep–from what (and who) causes it, to how to manage it, even in an agile environment where change is embraced.

We’ll be covering:

If, however, you’re struggling with planning your own projects and want a quick solution, grab our free Project Request Form Template below!

So, let’s get started with the basics!

In simple terms, scope creep is when the scope of a project increases from what was originally planned for.

Scope creep is actually quite common when managing projects, and can occur due to unintentional causes such as poor planning or even more intentional causes like unrealistic expectations from stakeholders.

Whatever the cause may be, scope creep can be detrimental to a project’s success. It can lead to missed deadlines, frivolously wasted time and money, and a finished project that may just miss the mark.


Making an effort to pinpoint exactly who may be responsible for your project’s scope creep is an incredibly important step in resolving it.

Oftentimes, the blame gets placed on the client; and though that is sometimes the case, it’s not always accurate.

The colleague

In many cases, scope creep can arise from the colleagues you’re working on the project with.

This can be for a few reasons:

1. Your colleague does not have a clear understanding of the project scope
In order to avoid this, you must make sure to openly communicate the project’s deliverables and requirements to your team before beginning to work on it. If possible, involve your team in the process of setting up the project scope; or at the very least, conduct a meeting with them after the scope has been set to give them a thorough rundown.

After you’re sure your team fully understands the scope and they’ve begun work, be sure to check up on them regularly throughout the process to make sure everything is coming along as planned and there are no issues.

2. Your

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