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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Martin, MPH

Setting Up Your Project for Success with a Project Scope


As a project manager, defining and managing the project scope is an important responsibility. The success of a project depends on accurately defining the scope. This management tip will highlight the process of creating a project scope. Additionally, I'll provide practical tips to help you avoid scope creep, which is a significant obstacle that can disrupt even the most meticulously planned projects.

What is a Project Scope?

The project scope refers to a set of instructions that outlines a project's objectives, responsibilities, deliverables, costs, and deadlines. It is established during the planning phase of a project and is typically documented in a scope statement. In a way, it can be likened to the rules of a board game, where the project is the game, and the project scope is the set of rules that must be followed to achieve success.

Why is Project Scope Essential?

The importance of project scope lies in its ability to establish clear boundaries and expectations for the project's goals and limitations. Without a well-defined scope, projects can quickly become burdened with additional tasks and features, leading to scope creep, increased costs, and project delays. By creating a clear project scope from the outset, stakeholders can ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives and keep the project on track to meet its goals within the allotted timeline and budget.

How Do You Define the Scope of a Project?

Defining the scope of a project involves establishing clear expectations and limitations such as project objectives, timelines, deliverables, budget, and possible constraints or obstacles. This ensures that all stakeholders are aligned towards the same objectives and can prevent any unnecessary deviations from the original plan, resulting in a successful completion of the project within the agreed-upon timeframe and budget.

What is a Project Scope Statement?

A project scope statement is a document that establishes the parameters and goals of a project is called a project scope statement. It specifies the project's objectives, deliverables, schedule, budget, and limitations. The scope statement is essential to ensure that all project participants are aligned and working towards the same objectives. It can also serve as a reference point throughout the project to prevent scope creep and ensure that the project is completed within the designated time frame and budget.

Key Elements for a Project Scope Statement

  1. Introduction: This defines the purpose and goals of the project. For instance, "the Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Case Investigation Engagement aimed to aid the State of Florida's emergency response to COVID-19 by conducting epidemiological investigations of individuals who had tested positive."

  2. Project Scope: The project scope outlines the requirements of the project, including goals, objectives, tasks, and who will oversee each task. 

  3. Deliverables: The deliverables define the tangible outcomes that are expected to be provided, and the timelines for submission of those items.

  4. Acceptance Criteria: These are metrics used to evaluate the success of the project. 

  5. Exclusions: Refers to anything the project manager and stakeholders agree will not be included in the project.

  6. Constraints: These are the hard limits of the project, including budget, resources, and time. These usually cannot be changed once the project has been initiated. 

What is Scope Creep?

Scope creep is when a project's goals and requirements gradually expand without proper approval or documentation. This gradual expansion occurs when clients or stakeholders introduce new requirements after the project has already started. This also means the team must do more work within the same constraints of time and resources as the original plan. These changes can seriously impact the success of the project by causing delays, increasing costs, and lowering stakeholder satisfaction. Scope creep is the most common risk for project managers and can jeopardize the goals and milestones of the project. Project managers need to monitor and control scope creep to make sure the project stays on track and meets its objectives.

How to Avoid Scope Creep?

To avoid scope creep, it is vital to establish clear project goals and requirements from the beginning and communicate them clearly to all stakeholders. Project managers should also establish a formal change control process to assess and approve any changes to the project scope. Regular monitoring and reporting on project progress can also help identify any potential scope creep and allow for corrective action to be taken before it becomes a significant issue. Finally, it is crucial to ensure that all team members are aware of the potential risks of scope creep and understand their role in preventing it.

You may also use the following steps as a guide for monitoring scope creep:

  1. Document Project Requirements: To understand the project requirements, it's crucial to communicate with all stakeholders and users. This information should be documented in a requirements management plan, which outlines how the project requirements will be tracked and the process for any necessary changes.

  2. Change Control Process: To ensure smooth project development, it's important to create a change management plan that outlines the steps involved in making changes to the project requirements. The change control process is simple: a change request is submitted, reviewed, and either approved or rejected. If it's approved, the change is incorporated into the project plan.

  3. Project Schedule: To ensure success, it is important to develop a project schedule based on stakeholder requirements and project scope and then adhere to it.

  4. Verify the Project Scope with the Client: Before proceeding with the project, it's important to ensure that you comprehend the project requirements. Share the requirements documentation and project schedule with your stakeholders, such as clients, investors, or project sponsors, and confirm that all the necessary elements are included in the task list. It's also advisable to verify the project scope with the client during the planning phase to minimize the risk of scope creep. To further reduce this risk, take the opportunity to review and discuss the change control process with the client and stakeholders.

  5. Engage the Project Team Members: It's important to prioritize the happiness of project team members. Keep them updated about any changes in the control process and how they will impact them.


In conclusion, writing a comprehensive project scope and effectively managing it is essential for project success. By following the tips outlined in this week's Management Tip of the Week, you can set clear project goals and requirements, establish a project scope statement, and prevent scope creep. By doing so, you can ensure that your project stays on track and achieves its objectives, ultimately leading to a successful project.

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