Scope Creep: That’s What’s Up

We interrupt our regularly scheduled That’s What’s Up update to bring you an important message about a dangerous topic: Scope Creep.

Back in my project management days, I learned about a term known as “Scope Creep.” Scope creep refers to the process of a project growing beyond the scope of what was initially outlined. It’s basically what happens when you go to Target for dishwashing detergent and leave with $30 worth of other non-dish related items. Now picture that happening on a MUCH larger scale with projects involving millions of dollars, tons of people, and all kinds of time. It’s a little different than $30 worth of dog toys, make up, and jelly beans*… (cough, cough)… for example.

It occurred to me this week that I was experiencing scope creep with my website (not this one, the other one I am working on). Initially I had an idea for a niche website. Niche websites are these super specific sites that focus on a particular topic. Because they are niche, they have a higher chance of showing up in google searches (i.e. search engine optimization) because their specificity lends them to have little competition. Types of niche sites include patterns for sewing doll clothing. Or how nerds can get fit. I got the idea from a website called Bren on the Road when I was searching for  Kiwi foods to eat in New Zealand. At any rate, Bren does a great job of explaining what a niche site is here.

I came back from New Zealand all kinds of fired up about a series of unrelated but potentially profitable niche sites that I was going to create. Bren said that it would take 30-40 hours of work to create a niche site, but after that, it’s fairly plug and chug. I had created websites before and had a good understanding of WordPress so I knew it wouldn’t take me long to get the site going. I planned to have about four niche sites up and running by spring. One a month.  How hard could that be?  So why is it that months later, my first site still has “Coming Soon” on the home page?

Scope creep.

What started out as a niche site quickly grew to a full-blown not-niche website. I was writing guides, and top lists, and creating infographics and ebooks about all kinds of things. I had so many different pages and projects that I was working on, that nothing was getting sufficiently completed to allow the site to go live. I had not creeped beyond my scope, I fully ran past it, leaving it in my dust. It’s like my scope was Wild E. Coyote and I was the Roadrunner. The coyote never truly stood a chance.

Typically, on large project teams, someone notices the inevitable scope creep and calls it out. There’s a status meeting where a manager raises a new idea and someone else says, “This is the first time I am hearing about this… was this in the original project documents?” Then the analyst starts to scroll through the files on her laptop to find the outline of the project while the Scope Creeper confidently lies proclaiming, “We discussed this a thousand times.” On a good project team, the Senior on the team calls the Scope Creeper out and says, “Yeah we definitely didn’t discuss that. If we were to add that on, it would add 43 extra days and $7 million dollars to the project. Are you up for that?” Then the Scope Creeper backs down, mutters something under his breath, the status meeting continues, and the scope creep is shut down.

On a team of one, there is no Senior to shut down the scope creep. You are the Senior and the Scope Creeper, which effectively leaves scope creep unchecked and running rampant like wild mint in a garden. If not properly contained, mint will grow everywhere cozying up to your zucchinis and strawberries, starving them of their nutrients. Yes, mint will do all of that. It’s conniving that way. You thought it was just an odorous little leaf, that tastes great in mojitos and teas. Beware my friends, mint is unchecked scope creep incarnate. Believe that.

Mint Plant - Photo by from Pexels
Photo by from Pexels

At least with mint, you can see when it is starting to take over. I figured out that my project had creeped past its scope when I realized that I was more interested in doing other things than I  working on the website. It was no longer interesting or entertaining to me. It was big, overwhelming, and boring and just felt like something I had to get done. It felt like like a job I didn’t enjoy.

Wasn’t the whole point of this career break for me to find work that fulfilled me spiritually and financially? How did I end up doing a job I didn’t enjoy for no pay?

Scope creep.

I spent some time this week talking with Fury and realigning the project back to it its original intent. I’m excited again. Ready to write. And with the redefined scope, I think I could have this thing up and running in a week. EEK! Stay tuned!!!

That’s What’s Up!


  • Speaking of Jelly Beans…. Happy Easter!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *