Tracking Scope Creep: A Project Manager Responds

Dear Editor:

The two-part Scope Creep article in the Winter and Spring issues of Today’s Engineer presented an interesting case study. The engineering-only solution, however, misses the bigger issue—lack of a formal project management process. It is unfortunate that the need for formal project management is omitted from the article. A formal project management process is the cornerstone of on-time and on-schedule projects. Such a process includes:

A formal project plan development process

A tracking system capable of providing variance analysis data

Managing project scope, schedule, and resource changes throughout the project life cycle.

This case study depicts an all-too-familiar scenario:

An engineer is selected as PM—usually with no formal project management training.

The project team is composed of primarily engineers—marketing and other functional organizations are viewed as project outsiders, rather than team members, and do not participate in the planning process.

Project objectives and deliverables are poorly defined—usually by engineering—including only engineering deliverables.

A comprehensive work breakdown structure, task completion criteria, and network diagram are nonexistent—progress measurement is therefore somewhat arbitrary and difficult to ascertain.

Task duration estimates are probably determined by someone other than the task owner—making estimates invalid.

The project schedule is pasted together to look good and match target dates—missing the opportunity to use critical path method (CPM) to develop a credible schedule.

Resource requirements, including people and budget, are guesses—usually without the benefit of using a comprehensive CPM-developed preliminary schedule.

A risk management plan does not exist—most project risks are treated as surprises.

The project plan is not validated and baselined by the project sponsor—missing the opportunity to obtain team and sponsor commitment prior to implementation.

A formal project tracking and change management system does not exist—impossible to track a project without a plan to measure progress against and to manage changes.

Project management, like engineering, is a discipline that must be learned. Project management is not for everyone. It requires a different skill set than, say, engineering or marketing.


  1. Comment on the role of the engineer as an “accidental” PM.
  2. Which numbered item in the list leads, do you think, to scope creep?

Source: J. Sivak, “Scope Creep: A Project Manager Responds,” ©IEEE. Reprinted with permission from Today’s Engineer, Vol. 1.

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