Project Management Soft Skills : Managing Scope Creep
The order was taken a few weeks ago.
The contract is signed, and work has started.
They said there was a little “slack” left after the negotiating / purchasing process so you can over-deliver a little.
The client loves what you and your team are doing for them.
They promises to give you more work in the future.
So, it’s no big deal when they ask you to do “one more thing” for them.
You do it and get back to work.
Then you get another request.
And then another.
All of a sudden the project is off track.
You’ve just started the process of what the suits and the grey hairs call scope creep.
Here are 3 ideas to prevent that from happening.
3 suggestions to help you maintain your boundaries and still have strong client relationships.
As always with Rainmaker only you can decide what works for you in your environment.
First Step: For both your sakes get clarity about what specifically is the request
Sometimes clients are responding to something happening in the wider organisation.
Sometimes they are not clear on what they need and what they really want.
Remember our job is to give them what they have agreed with us they need, not to do everything they ask.
However When you do get a request like this, please don’t say no at first.
Sending an email with all the reasons why it is not included in the scope of the project is not your best plan here.
No one likes to be told no. It feels like rejection.
Not great for client rapport (and more business)
Talk to your client and find out the story behind the request.
Why is it so important and why now?
Clarify exactly what they want you to do.
Actually in practice many times we find requests have been based on false assumptions.
Second Step: Agree the Impact
Many clients don’t mean to take advantage of us.
Something suddenly comes up and they think they need your help.
Because they trust you, they think it’s OK to ask.
In their mind they’re thinking “This will only take a minute.”
You however need you reassure yourself and your client and then come to an agreement.
- How much time do you think it will actually take?
- If we take that time what will it impact?
- Is that all agreed with all concerned?
- Probably more importantly…. If you say Yes and deliver it for no charge then you may have established a precedent.
The precedent is set in the mind of the client that it’s ok to ask and you will agree to do extra tasks for them.
- You need to help them understand how the request will impact the project.
They need to own this part … They can choose their priorities.
Third Step: Give your client an Easy Option or Option of least resistance
Like most people your clients think they know what kind of help they need at the beginning of a project.
Much like any change project, it’s not until they get into the process that other needs are discovered.
At that point, clients feel very vulnerable.
They now know they need extra help, but they don’t know how to get it.
This is why they ask you.
This is your big chance to put the big underpants on the outside of your outfit.
(Think Superman or Wonder Woman) This is when you can save the day.
Remember this is a “surprise” and no one could foresee this.
Work on the assumption that the client is NOT asking for free work.
May be you should communicate that assumption to them?
Have at least two options ready to cover the new development.
Should be the one that includes additional investment
Is the solution that includes adjusting the scope.
Your aim is to make it easy for the client to get help without having to jump through a lot of budget hoops.
I suggest that when you’ve agreed either of them an email note confirming your agreement should suffice.
Keep Calm and Carry On
I suggest that you try to believe clients do not intend to deliberately take advantage of you.
Sometimes they don’t know where the boundaries are and you may have to help them understand.
When you can take blame out of the situation, you can look for the “yes” instead of starting your conversation with a “no.”
With clarity and compassion, we can deal with the real issues, communicate the impact, and create easy ways to move forward.
Our clients will remember how you helped them and still rave about your work.
If you have difficulty with this maybe take a look at our Project Management Soft skills workshops