By Kevin Eikenberry, co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute 

Have you ever cleaned your garage? When you started the project, the task was pretty well defined. You could look at the garage and see what needed to be done, but once you got started, two things happened.

First, you realized there were more steps to the job than originally thought, and the project grew larger as you went. Second, you found additional tasks to do, for example, items you should repair or smaller organization projects to do, so you add those tasks to the project.

That is what is known as scope creep, and project teams experience it all the time. It’s often the primary reason for cost and time overruns, and it can have a drastic impact on the success of a project. That’s why it is so important to manage it. Here are six ways to do so:

Understand the purpose first

Why are you doing the project? What is your true purpose? Without this true North, projects can easily become side tracked and will grow quickly. Run every new task, against the purpose test, and ask yourself if this task is needed or critical for reaching the project’s purpose. If not, don’t take it on.

Set clear initial boundaries

Remember that shiny objects are attractive and seductive. They almost always seem like logical add-ons to the project, and sometimes they seen like they won’t take very long to complete. However, past experiences tell us otherwise. When you feel compelled to start a new task, argue why you don’t need to add it, and why it doesn’t make sense to do so now. Instead of finding compelling reasons to add it.

Determine costs

If you are going to add something, don’t just add it with first think about how it will affect the budget and productivity. Determine the cost in time, focus and resources. Don’t decide to include it in the project until all of those implications have been considered.

Say “No”

Most scope creep occurs because no one is willing to say “No”. Each of the previous steps is meant to give you purpose and ammunition to say “No,” but YOU have to be willing to actually say it. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon ideas or tasks all the time. Some of the items you uncover are true opportunities and could be big improvements, even if they shouldn’t be done now. Finish the original project, and go back and revisit your ideas when you have the time and resources to do so.

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