BMJ Stone
EZG Manufacturing
Federated Insurance
Fraco USA, Inc.
Hohmann and Barnard, Inc.
Hydro Mobile, Inc.
iQ Power Tools
Kennison Forest Products, Inc.
Mortar Net Solutions
Non-Stop Scaffolding
Pullman Ermator
Tradesmen's Software, Inc.
September 19, 2005 8:34 AM CDT

The Scourge of 'Scope Creep'


Everybody's got an opinion of what you are supposed to be doing. This started early in life. First, your family had expectations of you, then it was your friends, all the way to your spouse and kids. So we're not surprised then that, from general contractors to customers, everybody seems to know what you should be doing on your job site. And if you let them, they'll tell you.

The problem is, what they think you should be doing isn't always what you should have to be doing. For instance, every once in a while, there are problems on the job site. And not only would they like it if you'd solve these problems, but they'd also really appreciate it if you would solve them for free. Ah ... the life of the mason contractor!

Most of the time it comes down to this: the scope of work. Not knowing our scope of work allows for "scope creep." Not a good thing! So, what the heck is our scope of work?

Several answers can explain the scope of work:

  • What does the signed contract say it is?
  • How about the contract's own specs?
  • Wait a minute! Is that what the plans show?
  • Isn't there a code somewhere about this?

But there are more:

  • The owner/general contractor/construction manager have expectations.
  • The architect/engineer knows what he meant to include.
  • Your estimator has certain understandings, many of which may have been gathered from pre-bid conversations with these same people.
  • You signed a contract based upon your own understanding of all of the above.

So, where does that leave us? If a company is to succeed over the long run, then it must have a vested interest in seeing that its own stance on scope prevails. Unfortunately, this doesn't always make the project owner, architect, engineer or construction manager happy. But you are also the only person that can make scope creep go away.

While we're on the subject ... ever wonder why contract documents aren't more complete, with better details and more specific information? My personal theory is that everyone else who is involved in the project has either been in too big of a hurry to get it right before it is released for bid or simply doesn't want the contract to be clearer.

Let's say that a project was created with the "perfect" set of contract documents. These documents were so complete that they listed absolutely every detail, in startling clarity. There were lists, tables and manufacturers' names. Every dimension and elevation had been double- and triple-checked for accuracy. A complete soils investigation was performed. The research on the availability and delivery times was available, and the schedule allowed for all of this. So on and so forth ... Get the picture?

Now, what would happen to the cost of the documents to be that accurate? Think that the cost might go up a bit? Just a little! With all of this detail and every item showing up so clearly, it might allow your estimator to make an appropriate bid for the job, right?

My theory is that those in charge of bringing the project to bid have their own budgets to consider. Should they spend the money now, or should they wait and hope that these things don't become a problem after all? And if problems do show up later, they'll deal with them when the time comes. Or, better yet, they'll convince you that they're your problem, and that you should solve them. Oh, yeah ... for free!

Coach Gary diagrams one of the best defenses ever designed to deal with the scourge of scope creep: the well-written RFI. This will be worth thousands of dollars to you over the next few months! For a free copy of this winning RFI format, log on to

About the Author

Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at

Copyright © 2005, Gary Micheloni and Full Contact Project Management


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