Some project sponsors know in advance that they cannot secure the organizational commitment necessary for what they actually want to do. To overcome obstacles, they seek approval for something else that's related, but different and less ambitious. Once that's underway, the organization is "hooked," and they begin expanding the scope of that smaller effort to achieve their heretofore hidden agendas.
I call this tactic scopemonging and its practitioners scopemongers. Some call these people scope creeps.
Sometimes the target of the misrepresentation isn't the project team — it's the owner of the sponsor's budget. When the sponsor is an external customer, as it would be for a contracted services provider, the target is probably a budget owner within the customer organization. But wherever the target is, the team can suffer the consequences, which can appear as pressure, overtime, or long, unpaid extra hours.
Here are some indicators that scope creep might be part of a hidden agenda.
- Inexplicable passion
- When a project sponsor seems inexplicably passionate about what seems to be a dull or inconsequential effort, check for hidden agendas. Possibly something more is planned, but it hasn't yet made its appearance.
- When passion and commitment seem out of proportion to the project at hand, investigate. If you know or can guess what else might be intended, try removing from the team or the project any elements that, though inessential for the stated purpose, might be necessary for the conjectured scope expansion. If no expansion is contemplated, removal of those items should meet no resistance.
- It just doesn't make sense
- If the sponsor's or champion's vision doesn't hang together logically, consider the possibility that you aren't hearing the whole story. Ask yourself what the missing pieces might be. Once you know what they are, the vision might indeed make sense.
- If the sponsor's or champion's
vision doesn't hang together
logically, consider the possibility
that you aren't hearing
the whole storyIf you suspect that pieces are missing from the sponsor's requests, argue for their inclusion in a "not-requirements" section of the project plan. Once everyone agrees that these items are explicitly out of bounds for this project, any subsequent scope expansion to include these items will be much more difficult.
- Resistance to not-requirements
- When you first propose a set of not-requirements, you might encounter resistance, which could be evidence of some intention eventually to include the proposed not-requirements as actual requirements.
- If the discussion occurs early enough in the planning cycle, you might be able to insert the proposed not-requirements as actual requirements, which usually triggers estimation of their costs. The ensuing dialog will likely expose the impractical nature of the items in question.
Sometimes, the organization rewards scopemongers for "making things happen" and "having a can-do attitude." If that's the case where you work, the problem is bigger than one scope creep — it might be unwritten policy. We'll examine more indicators of scopemonging next time. Top Next Issue
For more about scope creep, see "Ground Level Sources of Scope Creep," Point Lookout for July 18, 2012; "The Perils of Political Praise," Point Lookout for May 19, 2010; "More Indicators of Scopemonging," Point Lookout for August 29, 2007; "Some Causes of Scope Creep," Point Lookout for September 4, 2002; "The Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Strategy," Point Lookout for June 29, 2011; and "The Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Task Duration," Point Lookout for June 22, 2011.
Are your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenamsFqnmgCkkwZIeKner@ChacHuyLaIdPlNNRCkxroCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Workplace Politics:
- How to Undermine Your Subordinates
- People write to me occasionally that their bosses undermine them, but I know there are bosses who want
to do more undermining than they are already doing. So here are some tips for bosses aspiring to sink
- What Insubordinate Non-Subordinates Want: I
- When you're responsible for an organizational function, and someone not reporting to you won't recognize
your authority, or doesn't comply with policies you rightfully established, you have a hard time carrying
out your responsibilities. Why does this happen?
- Managing Non-Content Risks: II
- When we manage risk, we usually focus on those risks most closely associated with the tasks at hand
— content risks. But there are other risks, to which we pay less attention. Many of these are
outside our awareness. Here's Part II of an exploration of these non-content risks, emphasizing those
that relate to organizational politics.
- The End-to-End Cost of Meetings: I
- By now, most of us realize how expensive meetings are. Um, well, maybe not. Here's a look at some of
the most-often overlooked costs of meetings.
- Much of what we call backstabbing is actually just straightforward attack — nasty, unethical,
even evil, but not backstabbing. What is backstabbing?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 21: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: III
- People who behave narcissistically tend to regard themselves as special. They systematically place their own interests and welfare ahead of anyone or anything else. In this part of the series we consider how this claimed specialness affects the organization and its people. Available here and by RSS on March 21.
- And on March 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: IV
- Narcissistic behavior at work is more damaging than rudeness or egotism. It leads to faulty decisions that compromise organizational missions. In this part of the series we examine the effects of constant demands for attention and admiration. Available here and by RSS on March 28.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenHRESwiNHyoOGzEvAner@ChacnMaBzeUUchMDsSFLoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.