First steps in Instructional Design!
Scope creep is something it seems we must become accustomed to handling in project management and in instructional design. And, as we know, scope creep is not limited only to these disciplines, but it exists in most other areas in our workplaces and personal lives. Portny et. al. (2008) said that “avoiding scope creep is not possible” (p. 347). They go on to state that the best way to deal with it is to have a change control system already in place “whereby changes can be introduced and accomplished with as little distress as possible” (p. 346). Having a change control system will help keep costs down, as the later the changes are made in a project the more costly they become, and it will help the project likely succeed without unnecessary delays.
Having a change control system would have been very beneficial in many ways for the small healthcare company I worked for last year. One case in particular was in planning the company Christmas party. My immediate supervisor enlisted myself and the other members of the marketing team to do the planning and preparations. Fortunately we started in July, but as the planning progressed, my boss changed nearly everything we had previously agreed on right until the last moment people started walking in the door, which left the marketing team constantly scrambling. The party was quite complex in that we had to arrange for 250+ people coming from all over the southeastern US to stay overnight at the Opryland Hotel during its busiest weekend of the year, the weekend before Christmas. We had to arrange shuttle buses, catering, gift baskets, hotel rooms, parking, entertainment, and breakfast, not to mention close to 20 separate tags, brochures, information cards, menus, and signs I had to create just for the party, all of which had numerous (countless!) changes and reprints made after they had been formally approved. In most cases a budget would have been the reason to keep the scope creep under control, but my supervisor was the president’s wife, so she wasn’t given a budget or any accountability for her decisions at all. This was a project out of control due to the myriad of changes having been made and there was really nothing the marketing team could do about it, except make the changes she wanted. In the end, it all came together, but not without a lot of unnecessary frustration experienced by the marketing team. As Portny et. al. said, “A major source of trouble with changes is the project manager… adopts an informal process of handling requests for change” (2008, p. 346). I believe that if my manager had kept a formal record of the changes she had requested, in addition to the expenses of the party, she would have had a much greater sense of how the Christmas party was easily exceeding the original scope she had envisioned.
If I had been in the position of project manager for this party, I would have made sure to follow the project management process by establishing a statement of work (SOW), a work breakdown structure (WBS), a change management plan, a schedule, and I would have had a clear budget established (Lynch & Roecker, 2007). Making decisions and approving them with minimal changes would have been my goal as project manager, not only to stay on budget and on track, but to avoid unnecessary work, stress, and headaches for the marketing team. I would have also made sure that when changes were necessary, they were simply to ensure the project’s success and not based on personal preference. For example, changing the restaurant to ensure there was enough comfortable space for our large group, and not changing the restaurant at the last moment simply because the interior design and colors didn’t suit someone’s preferences (yes, that really happened..). By following the PM process, everyone understands their role and responsibilities. And by making minimal and only necessary changes, the project is more likely to stay on track, on time, and on budget. Projects don’t have to be out of control, chaotic, and unpleasant for the people who are working on them. With preparation, planning for inevitable changes, and a determination to stick as closely to the original scope as possible, any party or project can be a success.
Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery, and management. London: Routledge. Copyright by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.