When is Scope Creep Value Added and when should it be an additional charge?

Tonight in a restaurant, we were charged an extra dollar for “blackening” the fish.  The waitress told us (oops, to be politically correct, I should have said “the server”) that it was a charge for the extra spices.  My companion and I commented to each other how cheap that felt – how “nickle and diming” and how much we resented it when people did it to us.  We commented that we disliked it when accountants and attorneys charged for quick phone calls, postage, copies, etc. and we both mentioned that we would never do that to our customers/clients. 

As I sat down to blog tonight, the dinner conversation made me think of the issue of scope creep and how delicately it needs to be handled.  When a customer wants a few little additional things, graciousness and customer service would suggest that you just give it to him.  But what happens when it’s this little thing, plus thing little thing, plus this big thing?  Where does it end?  How do you learn to say NO when that’s the appropriate response?

It seems to me that at the beginning of a project those decision makers responsible for the customer and the contract should sit down with the project manager and the project team and discuss how much extra it would be acceptable to give the customer – and when to draw the line and say, “Gee, sorry but I am not sure how to handle this, I will refer it to my manager (or the salesman, or whoever…)”  This is a great way to avoid saying “No.”  It’s never a good idea to say no to a customer – but refering it up is a great way to defer the decision.

There comes a point when a new negotiation for an additional contract is in order.

Knowing before hand how much extra you can give without going to a higher authority makes it easier for the project team and for the customer.  Knowing that you can bow out gracefully by refering the matter up the chain of command helps maintain the goodwill with the customer.

So look at scope creep as the encore at the symphony.  One or two are enough.  Beyond that, a whole new program must take place.


Blogged by ArLyne Diamond, Ph.D. – Diamond Associates www.DiamondAssociates.net  





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