If You Say “Oh, Just One More Thing,” Too Many Times, Your Project Will Suffer

a pile of multicolored stopwatches
Image by Pixabay / CC 0

Have you ever worked on a project that felt really doable and straightforward at the beginning? One where you set out with a clear vision of how it was going to unfold, only to find as you worked your way through it that there was a lot that you missed on your initial planning?

At first, these additions seem harmless. So you make a note or two about extra tasks you’ll have to incorporate. But they keep cropping up. And before you know it, there’s a pile of “little” things that altogether amount to more work than the initial project.

I’ve been in this exact scenario multiple times myself.

And it’s at that point that I’ll realize that I’m now a victim of scope creep.

Scope Creep or Kitchen Sink Syndrome

Scope creep, sometimes also known as kitchen sink syndrome, is a phenomenon that occurs when a project continually grows to include more and more work than initially intended.

While each of those additions can seem beneficial or necessary in isolation, when left unchecked, scope creep can render a project nearly impossible to finish. And in some cases, the inclusion of all that extra work doesn’t actually result in a higher quality, more comprehensive end product but instead produces something that’s detrimentally bloated.

What Causes Scope Creep

While scope creep can occur on a project that an individual is working on (and seems to be related to another phenomenon we covered recently in another installment of this series, planning fallacy), it’s even more likely to happen when a team of people is working on something.

Scope creep is also especially likely to happen when everyone involved doesn’t communicate well and the group lacks a clear leader — someone who is authorized and empowered to break ties or move the project forward.

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This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.

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