Scope Creep: How It Happens And 7 Ways to Prevent It

Interested in learning about scope creep and how to prevent it?

In this article, we’ll help you understand scope creep’s impact, its causes and what you can do to prevent or at least minimize it. We’ll also show you how project management tools can help managers easily deal with it.

Let’s get started.

What Is Scope Creep?

“Since we’re already doing so much… let’s just add this too.”

“Hey, why don’t we quickly add this to the project before sending it for approval?”

“An extra feature couldn’t hurt, right?”

What do these questions sound like?

A diligent employee who wants to give you the best possible product, right?

While that might be true, this employee could be jeopardizing your entire project.

*cue the theme music from Jaws*

Jaws is actually a great analogy for scope creep because it sneaks up on you, and when you finally see it – it’s too late. 

But how does this happen?

What is scope creep?

Why is it so dangerous?

Why is the Jaws theme song so iconic?

We’ll try and answer (some of) those questions here…

What Is Scope?

A project’s scope defines the objectives, deliverables and work processes required in a project.

So… What Is Scope Creep?

Scope creep is the phenomenon where a project’s requirements and deliverables increase as the project progresses. 


Let’s say you’re developing an app. Your original project plan included developing three key features for this app. 

However, as your project moved along, an employee recommended that you add this new feature that everyone’s raving about. 

There are no resources allocated for this extra work, but how much could it hurt?

Then, your client comes in and says they need a last-minute feature added to your project.

You’ll now have to manage to work on these two new features – using the same limited resources you allocated. Your project’s deliverables are steadily increasing without an increase in time and budget resources.

Why Is Scope Creep A Problem?

1. Project Failure

Scope creep can be disastrous for your project!

Additions to a project’s scope can lead to rolling out features without adequate validation and quality check. In fact, because of a time crunch, you might even neglect to adequately test out the most vital features. This could lead to an unreliable final product that’s virtually unusable.

Additionally, scope creep can really harm your profitability.


As it’ll take more time and effort to complete, your profit margins will shrink. The predetermined compensation for your work will no longer be appropriate. 

When combined with a faulty end product, you could be looking at massive losses resulting from these unchecked scope additions.

Related: Product Failure

2. Extra Pressure

Scope creep can cause unnecessary pressure on your project team. This is because your project team will be working on more processes and deliverables than they initially set out to do. While there’s nothing wrong with extra work, you need to make the necessary changes to your time and budget constraints.

For example, increasing the number of features in an app’s development is feasible if you increase the time and budget your team has to work on them. 

However, with scope creep, there are no such schedule changes.

Your team is forced to work through more processes at the same time and budget constraints. 

Your team won’t be able to cope with this and you’ll be missing deadlines with your processes breaking down.

3. Employee Stress and Burnout

The increased pressure caused by scope creep is going to be damaging for your employees’ mental and physical wellbeing.

It’s going to lead to increased stress – which, if not controlled, will eventually lead to burnout. This is the total depletion of an employee’s physical resources when coping with work. Hitting burnout results in permanent productivity drops. After it happens, you’re not going to have the same level of work from them ever again.

This, in turn, usually causes turnover as your employees can’t cope with these increasing demands. 

Bonus: Project Controls

4. Overcomplication

Scope creep can leave you with an end product that’s far too complicated to use. As you’ve been adding tons of processes and features, the end product could become overwhelming to use. 

You’ve added tons of features – but if it’s difficult to use them, what’s the point?

Often, this overcomplication can also overshadow your product’s original features. This makes it difficult for the client to see if their original expectations were met or not. 

5. Reputation Loss

Scope additions can also harm your reputation. Your faulty end products and delayed deliverables will not only scare away clients but subcontractors too. 

Think about it…

Why would they work with you if they’ve seen that they’ll be given tons of additional work? 

Not only will you find it hard to get additional projects, but you also won’t have any collaborators either.

The Top 4 Reasons For Scope Creep

1. Poorly Defined Scope

A poorly defined project scope can spell disaster for your project’s success. As your team, clients and stakeholders are unclear about the requirements and deliverables of the project; nobody’s on the same page.

With no clear work breakdown structure, you’ll receive recommendations left, right and center. Everyone is going to view your statement of work as a free-for-all mindmap, where they can add what they feel is necessary. 

2. Poor Project Planning and Processes 

Change management is the set of processes that define how you deal with project changes and updates. Poor change management can lead to scope creep in several different ways:

  1. Senior management may fail to closely monitor the team’s performance – letting them waste time and resources on additional tasks.
  2. You don’t have a thorough change control process. This can lead to unchecked additions to your project scope.
  3. Senior management allows employees to implement revisions and change requests from clients themselves – leading to tons of extra work. This happens because your team members can’t say no!

3. Insufficient Client and Stakeholder Coordination

One of the leading reasons for scope creep is client and stakeholder recommendations. Often, a client disrupts your progress when they make additional requests or change orders mid-way through a project.

However, including them in your planning process can prevent this. As they’re part of the planning process, they can state their recommendations and requirements – and you can structure your project’s scope accordingly. This way, you’re incorporating whatever they want without overburdening your employees.

4. Tendency To Overdeliver

Every project manager wants to give a client their best work. However, this aspiration might lead to unnecessary extra work that could derail your project. 

Trying to go above and beyond a client’s demands is great in theory, but in practice, it’s a risk. You could miss deadlines, overwork your employees or overlook some of the client’s initial recommendations.

Always strive to do your best – but keep track of your resources. Try and balance the two to give a client the best you can with the limited resources you were provided.

7 Ways Of Preventing Scope Creep

1. Clearly Define Your Project Scope

When defining the scope of work for a project, you must highlight:

  • What a project’s requirements are.
  • What resources you’re allocating to it.
  • What everyone’s roles are.
  • What the client demands are.
  • What the deliverables are.
  • What the deadline is.

Go over this scope statement with your team, project stakeholders, and clients to ensure that you’re all on the same page. As everyone is clear about the scope of work, there’ll be fewer additions and recommendations later on.

2. Involve Clients and Stakeholders

Involving clients and stakeholders in your planning process reduces the number of additional requests. Including them in your planning process also ensures that your scope statement contains adequate resources to cope with their demands. This reduces the likelihood of scope creep happening because:

  • They’ve already given you their inputs.
  • You’ve structured your scope of work to factor in their changes.

3. Create A Change Management Process

Sometimes, additional work requirements are unavoidable. However, that doesn’t mean it should derail your project.

A change management process defines how you record, track and act on any scope change. Establishing it can limit the damage that scope creep does to your project’s progress. With a change management process, you’re limiting the number of unchecked changes happening to your project’s scope. 

A good change control process includes:

  • Business analysts logging every recommended change order.
  • Thoroughly evaluating the feasibility and impact of this change order.
  • Business analysts tracking the actions taken in response to a scope change.
  • Communicating any issues that arise due to a change order.

A change control process introduces scope accountability to ensure that every change order is carefully considered. 

4. Collect Requirements In Layers

Most change requests come with a set of complex requirements. Dealing with these requirements is far easier when you collect them in layers. When you separate requirements into different layers, business analysts can tackle each layer separately to make change management easier. 

Your management process should consist of:

  • Scoping layer: to identify the scope and importance of change requests.
  • Expanded layer: Gathering information about change requests.
  • Detailed layer: In-depth look at change requests to analyze potential impact before making a formal change.

5. Learn To Say “No”

Sometimes, you’ll have to take a stand as a project manager. You’ll have to say “no to a client and explain why their new demands are unfeasible. Often, this step is easier when you’ve included them in your planning process.


As they were already part of your planning process, the scope creep falls entirely on them. They had to an opportunity to voice their concerns but didn’t do so. When it’s their fault, saying no to them for the sake of a project’s completion makes sense.

However, there are some instances where you can’t say no. In those cases, opt for one of these three solutions:

A) Compromise

To compensate for additional requirements, remove any unimportant tasks and requirements from your current scope. This ensures that your new recommendations are included without exhausting your resources.

B) Future Additions

A project manager can add new client recommendations to a list of priority items for the future. You can work on these items once the current project is completed. This way, the client eventually gets what they want and you avoid scope creep.

C) Increase Compensation

Increasing the price of a project to correspond with additional work is reasonable. As you’ll be working harder than you initially planned, you’ll have to be compensated accordingly.  

6. Avoid Gold Plating

Gold plating is closely tied to the tendency to overdeliver on a scope statement. It’s the process of adding unnecessary additions to a project’s scope to impress a client. 

However, this process leads to an uncontrolled scope creep that delays your project’s completion. Also, there’s no guarantee that your client actually wants the new features you’ve added. Gold plating often provides no value while draining your resources.

What’s the point of adding a new coat of paint on a car with a broken engine, right?

Focus on your current project scope, and only increase it if you have the resources to do so.

7. Keep Monitoring Your Projects

Preventing scope creep is easy once you start monitoring your projects. As you’re keeping tabs on everything, you can easily manage your project plan:

  • Are you falling behind in your project plan?
  • Are certain tasks in your work breakdown taking longer than expected?
  • Are your employees working on tasks that aren’t in your project plan?

As you’re on top of everything, you can avoid scope creep and determine the feasibility of any scope increases. 

How ClickUp Helps You Manage Scope Creep

ClickUp is the world’s highest-rated free project management tool. It’s used by companies like Google, Webflow, and Airbnb and has tons of features to keep your projects on track. Using ClickUp is super easy and will boost your productivity in no time.

Here are a few of ClickUp’s features that can help streamline your project management:

(click on the links for a more detailed description of each feature)

  1. Project Statuses – categorize project stages and track them easily.
  2. Assigned Comments – convert comments into assigned tasks for team members.
  3. Dependencies – to ensure that your team attempts tasks and project objectives in the right order.
  4. Notepad – jot down thoughts and ideas with ease and create tasks from them.
  5. Time Tracking – track the time your employees spend on tasks for better time management.

Here’s how ClickUp helps you manage scope creep:

1. Goal Setting

The Business Problem

If you’re unable to track your goals and objectives, you won’t be able to stay within a project’s scope. As everyone is confused about their deliverables, they’ll be adding their own steps and processes to your project. This is going to lead to an ever-increasing scope that’s difficult to manage.

The ClickUp Solution: Goals and Targets

ClickUp gives you a comprehensive solution to track your goals and objectives. With ClickUp, you’ll have no trouble staying on track and focusing on your project’s scope. Here’s how:

ClickUp’s goals are high-level containers which are broken down into smaller targets. These targets are quantifiable measures that, when finished, will complete your goal. 

For example, a project goal could consist of 10 smaller targets. As your team finishes these targets, your goal’s completion percentage will also increase. This helps your team stay on track and only attempt activities that contribute to a project’s end result.

ClickUp gives you tons of customizability over the kind of targets you create. You can set:

  • Number: for tracking increases or decreases between number ranges. 
  • True/False: These are done or not done options.
  • Currency: This target helps you track your financial resources.
  • Tasks: This refers to the completion of tasks and/or lists of tasks inside ClickUp.

You can even create folders for your goals to neatly categorize and store them. To make client/stakeholder involvement easier, you can customize your goal folder’s access rights. This allows them to view and make suggestions to your project scope before you start work.

2. Client and Stakeholder Involvement

The Business Problem

Failing to involve your client and stakeholder in your planning process can have serious repercussions. As they haven’t had their say, they’ll add their recommendations and expectations later on. This inevitably leads to scope creep as you’ll have to balance new suggestions within your current resource constraints.

The ClickUp Solution: Custom Access Rights

ClickUp gives you customizable access rights to let clients and stakeholders into specific tasks in your project space. This way, they can be part of your planning process to ensure that their suggestions are included before you start work

This reduces the likelihood of any sudden scope increases later on as you’ve already defined your scope with their recommendations in mind.

Don’t worry about security breaches – ClickUp only lets them access the project spaces you include them in. They won’t be able to see any of your other projects or operations. Additionally, you can choose to give them only viewing rights so that they can’t make any edits to your tasks and projects.

3. Monitoring Your Project’s Progress

The Business Problem

Shoddy progress monitoring can spell disaster for your project’s scope. As you’re not monitoring developments, you can’t notice any additional work taking place. Your project’s scope could be steadily increasing – and you’ll be completely unaware of it!

Not keeping up with your project’s progress also makes it difficult to assess the feasibility of any project changes or recommendations

The ClickUp Solution: Gantt Charts

ClickUp’s Gantt charts give you a timeline of your project’s progress. It makes it easy to monitor your breakdown structure and track project progress. As your project tasks are laid out on your Gantt chart, you can quickly see if things are going according to schedule.

ClickUp’s Gantt charts can also calculate your project’s critical path to determine which tasks are essential to a project’s completion. Your critical path can also identify the less essential tasks that can be discarded if you have to compromise for scope management.

You also get tons of automation to make progress tracking a breeze. ClickUp’s Gantt charts can:

  • Readjust due dates and start dates of task dependencies as you reschedule items.
  • Calculate your project progress percentage based on tasks completed versus total tasks.
  • Compare expected progress vs. current progress.

4. Detailed Project Guidelines

The Business Problem

If you don’t have clear guidelines over your work breakdown structure, scope creep is inevitable. You have to clearly outline what a project’s scope is to ensure that your team operates within it. 

The ClickUp Solution: Docs

ClickUp’s Docs is a built-in wiki tool for your team. You can use it to create a detailed statement of work to outline each employee’s duties. As these docs are stored alongside your projects, they’re easily accessible. You can create a detailed work breakdown structure for your employees to ensure that they stay within a project’s scope. 

ClickUp’s Docs give you tons of other features:

  • You can nest pages within documents to create detailed documents.
  • You can access rich text formatting options.
  • Share your docs with clients and project stakeholders to get their inputs.

5. Prioritization

The Business Problem

Dealing with scope creep can be overwhelming. You must prioritize the tasks most essential to a project’s completion if you want to meet your deadline. If you don’t do this, your team could spend hours on a scope change that isn’t a priority.

The ClickUp Solution: Priorities

You can add priorities to all your ClickUp tasks to let your team know which ones are most important. These priorities are color-coded for easy identification:

  • Red: Urgent
  • Yellow: High Priority
  • Blue: Normal Priority
  • Grey: Low Priority

As this color-code is standard across ClickUp, your team will have no problem identifying priority tasks – irrespective of the project they’re part of. They can even sort and filter their tasks by priority to tackle their most important tasks first.

The Benefits Of Scope Creep

While you should always try and avoid scope creep, it does have a few positives:

A) Improves Reputation

Going above and beyond a client’s recommendations shows them that you’re committed to excellence. Consistently outperforming expectations is a great way to build your team’s reputation and garner more interest.

But remember, you have to exceed expectations while delivering on time. If you can’t meet your project deadline, you’re going to impress no one.

B) Increased Pay

Increases in scope usually translate to increases in revenue. As you’re doing more work and undertaking additional costs, you can bill your clients for more. However, this can be a contentious issue, so always establish a clear-cut fee structure beforehand.

C) Optimized Processes

Scope creep gives you an opportunity to identify what’s wrong with your project management. With a post-project review, you can look at why issues occurred and come up with ways to avoid scope creep the next time. 

Learn how scope is impacted by the project management triangle.


Scope creep is one of the most common project management issues. 

Luckily, it’s one of the easiest to manage.

Clearly defining your goals and objectives greatly reduces the risk of any scope increases. Using project management tools like ClickUp can help you develop a scope control process to always keep things on track.

Why not sign up for ClickUp today for free and experience it for yourself?

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