Scope Creep: The Startup Killer

So you’ve got an idea that’s going to change the world? Awesome! We hope so too. But before you jump into development, let’s take a second to discuss the number one killer of all projects, products, and startups since the beginning of time:  Scope Creep.

Scope Creep is a disease that affects startups at all stages of growth, and you may be a victim without even knowing it! The problem is, Scope Creep always starts as a well-intentioned idea: “Have you considered adding this feature?” or “What do you think about including just one more option” or “How about we develop this final accessory before launch?” And before you know it, you’re infected. And the problem is, once you’re infected with Scope Creep, it’s going to come back. Again, and again, and again.

And the result?

A half-baked, bloated product that hurts customer satisfaction, over-complicates processes, or even worse, collapses your company under its own over-scoped weight. But I’m here to tell you there IS a cure! Let’s look at five ways you can self-diagnose, and cure your company of this deadly disease:

  1. Set Expectations Upfront

It’s important to set all expectations upfront for each product, project, or initiative before you begin. Understand what you’re trying to accomplish, what specific features, functionality, or end result you are driving towards, and how are you going get there (see number 4, outlining milestones). Setting expectations will ensure you start on the right track, and align your teams towards a common goal. Diving into a project before setting appropriate expectations doesn’t just open the door for Scope Creep, it gives it a seat at the table.

  1. Define Your Stakeholders

Remember, not everyone is a stakeholder! There’s a big difference between a colleague with an opinion, and a stakeholder on the project. Defining the key stakeholders will allow you to limit the number of “cooks in the kitchen”, and distil input down to essential players with vested interests in making the project a success. Define your stakeholders, and limit Scope Creep downstream.

  1. Identify Approval Procedures

Most startups are relatively flat. Founders work alongside entry level workers, without any real structure or succession plan in place. And although identifying approval procedures may sound like something old school companies do to ensure executives keep their seats, it’s an important exercise for organizations at all stages of growth. Identify your approval procedures, and stop Scope Creep dead in its tracks.

  1. Outline Milestones

Now that you’ve set expectations, defined your stakeholders, and put some approval procedures in place, it’s time to focus on where the project is, where it’s headed, and how you’re going to get there. Milestones and goal setting allow project managers and executive teams to not only track progress, but keep teams aligned towards common goals, and identify what needs to happen to get there. Define your milestones, tighten your timeline, and kick Scope Creep to the curb.

  1. Follow Change Control Processes

Talk to any project manager, startup founder, or entrepreneur, and they’ll tell you projects never run on time or turn out exactly as they’d hoped. It’s just a fact of life. So, in the very likely event your project veers off course, be ready with a pre-determined change control process. Stakeholders, approvers, and executive teams should identify deviations as they occur, and implement change control processes to ensure projects get re-scoped, stakeholders redefined, and milestones modified to account for the change. Be proactive, and you’ll keep the Scope Creep at Bay

It may sound simple, but avoiding Scope Creep requires constant diligence. Don’t wait until it’s too late.  Ditch the bloat, and cure yourself of the Creep today!


UpMentum helps entrepreneurs, early, and growth stage companies develop the strategy, skills, and vision they need to be an ultimate success. Get rid of scope creep today, see more at:

[image credit(s): Whiteboard – Shutterstock]