Scope creep is any deviation from the established project plans and baselines. In instructional design this often involves others, managers or other well-intended colleagues, trying to squeeze as much content into a training project at the risk of diminishing the effectiveness or even losing the original purpose of the training project. Well-intentioned colleagues, stakeholders, and SMEs may try and make the training become everything to everyone by endlessly adding in content and or revising the training. If unfettered, this can cause push back the completion of the training and lead to poor learning outcomes.
At the early stages of one learning project I was involved in, we were aiming to increase participant engagement. In the early stages of this training, the project was accepting of direct feedback from staff members at all levels. The other trainer and I started off with a training problem: how can we increase the participation of teens and their parents in our prescribed interventions. We had about three weeks to complete a one-hour live training at a conference. In an effort to elicit buy-in, we reached out to members of the project to elicit helpful information. We hoped that this would create additional buy-in, since colleagues would be involved in the training. There were a couple of major issues with this. First, we never clearly defined what “engagement” meant. Our colleagues were composed of researchers, social workers, case managers, counselors, educators, state workers, and others from several different states. Another challenge is that we set the precedent that all voices would be heard. Without an operational definition of the engagement, each opinion would pull the training in a different direction and as the presentation time approached, the training didn’t necessarily evolve into a clear and functional set of objectives but was influenced by the most vocal individuals with their opinions.
When training was finally delivered, it was ambiguous and didn’t provide clearly defined objectives. During the actual delivery of the training, colleagues were still playing the devil’s advocate and challenging the content as if it were still in the development stage. It was a stressful and embarrassing experience. Some colleagues became offended because they didn’t feel heard. During the training, colleagues continued to move the training in a different direction. One colleague actually walked over to my table and asked if she could provide feedback about my training immediately after I sat down. Again, this was just a few minutes after the actual training. It was evident that she did not listen to the training because she was sharing slides and showing me videos of training about client engagement, the content of which was almost identical to what had just been presented.
As the five-year project progressed, the process of training improved a little. We tightened up the involvement process to only a select few subject matter experts and stakeholders at a time. Our project director established some more clear boundaries. We started using learning objectives. The leadership team for all training essentially became the project managers under the project director and ultimately, most of the training went through this smaller channel of top-level decision-making with direct sign-off from the project director. We continued to consult subject matter experts from within our organization and from without, but there was a lot more order, structure, and clear boundaries. The training in the project was not perfect, but we became better at managing scope creep.
Managing scope creep: An ounce of prevention. Project Management Academy. (2022, June 16). Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://projectmanagementacademy.net/articles/managing-scope-creep/