Taming The Beast: Managing Scope Creep

By Alchemmy’s Eloka Ntephe

In the dynamic world of programme management, change is the only constant. But how do we harness this change without letting it spiral out of control? How do we prevent scope creep from eroding our outcomes and causing costs to skyrocket? We believe that the answer lies not just in managing change, but in mastering it. 


A Cautionary Tale 

The Denver International Airport expansion serves as a lesson on the dangers of scope creep. Initially budgeted at £1.5 billion, the project’s costs skyrocketed to nearly £4 billion due to the uncontrolled expansion of its objectives. The most significant contributor to this inflation was the addition of an automated baggage system mid-project. This system, not part of the original plan, faced numerous technical issues, causing delays and cost overruns. It stands as a stark reminder of the importance of maintaining a clear and controlled scope from the outset. 


Our Approach To Scope Creep 

When Alchemmy was engaged to review the Cargo portfolio at a major UK airport, we encountered a programme that, while backed by a strong vision, suffered from a lack of clarity in how individual projects supported this vision, leading to slow progress and scope creep. Our approach was to relaunch the programme with a new governance structure and an integrated delivery plan, overseen by a dedicated Programme Manager. This strategic realignment allowed us to halt projects that were contributing to scope creep and focus resources on those critical to the vision, accelerating the programme’s momentum.  

Our work with the same airport’s Passenger Automation programme revealed a programme suffering from stakeholder misalignment and a lack of clarity in its overarching vision, causing scope creep. Our diagnostic service highlighted these issues, leading us to create a visual target end-state for passenger automation. This roadmap, co-created with stakeholders, provided a clear direction and prevented further erosion of outcomes. With a clarified vision and stakeholder consensus, the programme was reinvigorated, setting a clear trajectory for successful delivery. 


Strategies For Managing Scope Creep 

Scope creep is an ever-present threat, leading to budget overruns, missed deadlines and compromised deliverables. Beyond traditional programme controls, such as change and risk management, we suggest putting a strong emphasis on these three elements: 

Clear Objectives: Defining specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals sets a solid foundation for the programme.  

Effective Communication: Implementing a structured communication plan that includes regular updates, feedback loops, and escalation processes ensures that all parties remain informed and engaged.  

Stakeholder Engagement: Developing a stakeholder management strategy that includes mapping out all stakeholders, understanding their influence and interest, and tailoring engagement plans for each group ensures that their needs are addressed and their support is secured.  


Programme Diagnostic Toolkit 

Our service goes beyond just identifying scope creep; it’s an in-depth exploration into the fabric of your programme, dissecting its governance, delivery, leadership, stakeholder management, communications, and benefits management. We provide a comprehensive assessment that cuts through the complexity and volatility of your programme’s environment, offering a clear roadmap to realign your programme with its intended outcomes. 

Scope creep is a formidable beast, but it’s one that can be tamed. Our integrated capabilities in programme management and change management, backed by our proven track record, make us the ideal partner for navigating the complexities of programme delivery. 


For more information on our Programme Diagnostic Toolkit, please contact: 

Adam Kearns
Head of P3M Centre of Excellence
+44(0) 7900 783962 

Written by

Sam Smitherman

Published on

31th June 2024


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