When you’re planning a program you diligently describe your responsibilities and the client’s, you outline them on the contract, everyone agrees to the terms, and things seem great. The program kicks off seamlessly, it seems as if everything is going to plan, but then something unexpected pops up. Maybe the client delivers creative files incorrectly, a package with event supplies is delayed or stuck at a ship point, or the location the client secured falls through.
They’re fumbling and they need your help. When you’re deep into a program the automatic thing to do is pick up the pieces for the client and keep things moving. Though you also need to have boundaries.
How many of these things should you be doing before the scope of a program increases? By failing to create boundaries and draw a line of where your responsibilities begin and end, you begin to dilute the value of your time, efforts, and energy. Here is where you run into the dreaded “scope creep.”
Scope creep in project management refers to changes, continuous or uncontrolled growth in a project’s scope, at any point after the project begins. This can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled. It is generally considered harmful (Lewis, 2002).
No honorable agency wants to leave a client hanging, and we are certainly not suggesting that! In fact, we think at times like this it is the perfect opportunity to offer additional support to clients through an addendum or even a secondary contract.
Before you dig in and start spending time editing / driving frantically to the UPS ship point / researching new locations, etc., talk to the client about whose responsibility it is and offer your services as an add-on. A client will not be upset if you are clear about where your assistance starts and ends within a contract, they may actually be even more appreciate if you say, “this additional service is something we can offer you, we just need to put a new contract or addendum in place to add this type of support.
It is important for you to know your worth as an agency, and at the end of the day you can’t offer your services for free. Eliminating scope creep can be a daunting task but if you are proactive and flag potential issues and how requests incur incremental costs and time allocations to a project you will be better off in the end.
“Because time is your most valuable asset, you can’t be willing to give it away to others freely.”1 We believe that you should do your best for every client every time, and that when scope creep happens you address and solve it together.