Analyzing Scope Creep

6a00d8341df65353ef0120a6cd96fa970bThis week, we have to discuss a situation in which we faced scope creep. IT reminds me of the hotel opening period in Bora Bora. I was hired as Revenue and Reservation Manager, and arrived in the resort a few months before the rest of the employees. As a department head, my project was to set up the department for the opening. My tasks were to hire the team members, configure the computerized management system, organize the office, and develop the training standard for my future team. The opening of the resort was scheduled 5 months later and needed to be done with all of those tasks by then. I was alone in my department at the time, but had to work with other department managers, as well as report to the General Manager (GM).

When I arrived, I had a meeting with the GM to discuss the various tasks and define the scope of my work. The few first weeks were challenging, being alone, but I was able to follow the plan.

Portny, et al. (2008) define scope creep as “the natural tendency of the client, as well as project team members, to try to improve the project’s output as the project progress” (p. 346). When more people arrived in the resort and helped me on the project, every member of the team was bringing a new eye on the project, and their own experience. So people were bringing up new ideas on how we could improve the tasks we were doing.

The biggest impact was on the schedule as it was hard to manage to integrate all those changes in the time we had to do the work. There were also some changes that we requested on the budget assigned for the furniture of the office for example. One of the front office managers who worked in another hotel from the same chain suggested that we put some soundproofing material in the desk separation in the reservation office. This was supposed to avoid the noise disturbance when different agents were on the phone. I thought at the time that the idea was great but that it would involve more costs. First, I talked to some other reservation managers in different hotels of the same chain to get their feedback and recommendations. I did find out that this was really something I needed to do, based on the design of the office. Then I got a quote from the engineering department, and went to talk to the GM to get his approval on this budget change. I had all my arguments prepared to justify the additional costs.

Most of the other changes made to the initial project did not generate more costs, just an adjustment of the plan, and more work to be done. We extended the responsibilities of the team, so I needed to adapt the content of my training and procedures, and develop additional material.

I do think that we manage the scope creep in a good way. “Avoiding scope creep is not possible” (Portny, et al., 2008, p. 347), but we reduce its impact. As described in our resources, the best option to manage scope creep is to control all changes and limit its negative effects. To do so, we should review all changes that are happening and evaluate their impacts (positive and negative). Then, we should assess how you can modify the changes required to increase the positive impacts and limit the negative ones. Once approved, the changes must he communicated and implemented properly. Those are the recommendations we got this week, and I believe this is pretty much what we did during the opening. Every hotel opening is challenging and chaotic, but apart from the larger quantity of work that the scope creep generated, the result was positive and well managed. I believe that one thing that saved me in this project was the fact that I am able to work pretty fast and multitask a lot. I managed to do all the additional work in approximately the same amount of time simply by working longer hours, as well as the other team members. As managers during an opening, we knew it was part of the game and worked hard to get everything done.

Reflecting on the whole situation, I realize that we only had informal processes to handle those elements. “Such a process, leads to misunderstanding on the part of the parting requesting the change” (Portny, et al., 2008, p. 346). If I were doing it again, I would simply implement a clearer procedure for those changes or recommendations to improve the project. It will allow a better change control system.



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.


7 responses to “Analyzing Scope Creep

  1. Laury,

    First let me say this…Bora Bora! Great job staying on track with your original plan. It is very difficult to avoid scope scope creep from newcomers to the project. It seemed you had a solid plan from the beginning and stuck with it as much as possible. Thanks for the example.


  2. Laury,

    I’m curious if the scope creep that took place, insofar as the budget and time, could have been thwarted, or at least minimized, if the team would have met via telephone/video conference call once the team members were decided on and before meeting in Bora Bora? What I took from your post is that you did most of the work yourself, as far as the PM plan, budget, timeframe, and so on.

    • Hi Stacie,
      well the problem was that the team was not hired yet!! So I had to start the project alone, and then get the team engaged in the whole process. So a little different than a standard project where the whole team starts together. I did a lot of work, but not all. Opening are always hard as the timing and resources are always very limited, and changes are happening every day! but it is a great learning experience and I absolutely love it! I did 3 openings… 🙂

  3. Hi Sonya!

    Bora Bora! What a wonderful place to spend 5 months working! I think it is awesome that despite being alone you continued on the with the original plan. I wonder, how it is that a hotel (am going to presume it is a chain) did not have a formal process in place? My spouse worked in the hotel industry for years. There is always some kind of project going on and always someone to answer to formally and informally. One thing I learned a long time ago: Document Document Document – especially if it is an informal meeting. That way, you know what was said and can back it up later if the need arises. You can also confirm in writing whatever important information was shared as well as to minimize and misunderstandings that might occur (Portny, 2014).

    ~ Katrina

    • Hi Katrina,
      I actually staying in Bora for nearly 2 years! 🙂
      There was a formal procedure in place from the company, the same one for all the hotels in the chain, but as any opening is different, it is about adapting the formal procedure to the situation. And Bora is a very special place, special culture. So a lot of adaptation was needed!

  4. Laury,

    Bravo, to your managing the mayhem of project management. It is always the concept of having “too many chefs in the kitchen” that seem to create problems. While scope creep is inevitable, the best way to stay on top of it was exemplified by your actions. The more communication in conjunction with delegating others will help stay on top of project and preventing it from running away from you.


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