Prevent Scope Creep

All big projects have the potential for scope creep – uncontrolled changes in project scope. It results in missed deadlines, budget overruns and altered deliverables.

We entrepreneurs can be guilty of this when it comes to operating our businesses. It’s easy to get distracted by new opportunities and ideas. It’s sort of what small business is all about: being flexible enough to jump on opportunities.

I’ve been guilty of doing this myself. It can be fun and challenging but sometimes not very productive. I’ve created 30 or so workshops that I have no desire to sell. My branding and website have undergone many renditions. Was I being productive during those hundreds of hours? It felt like it. I was busy but, oops, I wasn’t making any money.

In January 2010 I set my theme for that year to be ‘FOCUS’. It stayed my theme for 2011 and I’m finally seeing the results of my intentions. (In fact, I’m satisfied enough to pick a new theme for 2012.) I did it by creating simple rules for myself.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • In an effort to manage my time better, I decided to only attend networking events where I could find my ideal client. When I receive an event invitation, it’s easy to decide if I should go or not. I also set up ‘office days’ and ‘out days’ in my calendar. It has made me a little less flexible in scheduling coffee dates but I’m probably the only one who’s noticed.
  • To prevent scope creep in my newsletter, I set 2 simple rules for articles: they had to be of interest to at least 50% of small business owners and roughly 300 words in length. Many of my contributing authors will remember being asked to edit their articles.

I put my rules to use when a new opportunity arises, as the yardstick by which I decide to jump in or pass.

Yes, I definitely break the rules sometimes but here’s the kicker: if I break a rule, it becomes a strategic decision – considerate of the risks and consequences.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on January 25, 2012