How To Manage Scope Creep: 3 Lessons From Scrum Teams

Scope creep, the growth of an initiative beyond its intended objective, is a common threat to most projects. It can introduce unplanned activities, delays and increase project costs, if not properly managed. While no team is completely immune from the dangers of scope creep, scrum teams by their very nature, are structured to proactively identify the work that needs to be done before each sprint to ensure the team remains focused on their goal.

This article discusses 3 main approaches used by scrum teams to manage work and prevent scope creep, which other teams may learn from, whether organised as scrum teams or not.

Before the start of any project, scrum teams typically engage in sprint planning, an activity that focuses on what will be delivered in the upcoming sprint and how the work will be accomplished. Adopting a realistic approach to estimating what can be reasonably accomplished within a sprint can help prevent scope creep.

Scrum teams also manage scope creep by defining a sprint goal which expresses the purpose of the sprint, and helps to manage unplanned work. User stories are defined in line with the sprint goal and any stories perceived as “extras” can either be dropped or postponed to the next sprint. They also reflect on their goal at the end of the sprint and assess how well they performed in line with it.

Scrum teams also manage scope by defining sprint lengths or iterations that run for predefined periods throughout the duration of the project. The sprint can last for a time-boxed or maximum duration of 2 weeks, and it may also be as long as 30 days. Due to the restricted duration of sprints, scrum teams are able to deliver little and often, correct course as often as needed and reduce the cost of change associated with scope creep.

How best can you adopt these principles on your project?