Managing What’s Out of Scope in Project Management


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Project management can often feel like trying to control chaos. From resource allocation to managing stakeholders, there’s so much going on that it’s easy to lose track. One of the most common challenges is managing what’s “out of scope” – but what does this term mean, and how can we deal with it effectively? This blog post is here to guide you through the mysterious landscape of “out of scope”.

What Does "Out of Scope" Mean?

What Does “Out of Scope” Mean?

“Out of scope” is a term used in project management to refer to tasks, activities, or requirements that fall outside the agreed-upon project’s boundaries. These can create unexpected pressure on your resources, time, and budget, causing delays, cost overruns, or even project failure if not handled correctly.

But how do you determine what’s out of scope? This is where a clearly defined project scope comes into play.

Key takeaway:

“Out of scope” refers to anything that falls outside the defined boundaries of a project.

The Importance of Project Scope

The Importance of Project Scope

Before you can identify what is out of scope, you must first define the scope of the project itself. This involves detailed project planning where you specify the objectives, deliverables, and activities of the project. The project scope sets the boundaries and helps ensure everyone involved has a shared understanding of what the project will deliver and what it won’t.

Remember, a well-defined scope is like a roadmap. It will guide your project team, keep you focused, and help avoid unnecessary work.

Key takeaway:

Defining the project scope is essential to distinguish what’s within and what’s out of scope.

Identifying and Handling "Out of Scope" Requests

Identifying and Handling “Out of Scope” Requests

Despite best efforts, “out of scope” requests are inevitable. Clients may ask for additional features, or internal and external stakeholders may demand changes that were not originally planned. These are all potential scope creep culprits. Here’s how to handle them:

  1. Identify: Recognize the request as something that wasn’t included in the original project scope.

  2. Evaluate: Assess the impact of the request on resources, time, and budget.

  3. Communicate: Discuss with the stakeholders, highlighting the implications of the change.

  4. Negotiate: If the change is necessary, negotiate new terms, including adjusting the budget or timeline.

  5. Document: Record all changes to avoid confusion and maintain transparency.

Key takeaway:

Properly identifying, evaluating, and handling “out of scope” requests can keep your project on track. It’s helpful to reference your project scope document frequently to make sure you’re on track and not at risk of scope creep

Software Tools for Managing "Out of Scope"

Software Tools for Managing “Out of Scope”

Managing “out of scope” can be much easier with the right project management software. Here are two that I recommend:

  1. Trello: Trello is an intuitive project management tool that allows you to create boards for different projects, and lists for tasks within each project. You can assign tasks, set due dates, and more. This makes it easy to visually manage the scope of a project.

  2. Jira: Jira is a more complex tool designed specifically for software development projects, but it’s extremely versatile and can be used for other types of projects as well. It allows you to create user stories, track progress, and manage changes in scope effectively.

Key takeaway:

Software tools like Trello and Jira can be helpful in managing project scope and dealing with “out of scope” requests.

Digging Deeper: The Implications of "Out of Scope"

Digging Deeper: The Implications of “Out of Scope”

When a task or request falls outside the agreed-upon project’s boundaries, it doesn’t just mean extra work. It can have multiple implications on various levels.

  1. Team morale: Continually adding tasks that weren’t initially agreed upon can demoralize the team. It creates a sense of never-ending work, which can lead to burnout and decreased productivity.

  2. Quality of work: When the team is forced to incorporate out of scope tasks, they may rush them or cut corners to meet deadlines. This compromise can adversely affect the quality of the overall project.

  3. Relationship with stakeholders: Out of scope requests can strain relationships with stakeholders if not handled professionally. It can lead to misunderstandings and dissatisfaction.

Key takeaway:

“Out of scope” requests can impact team morale, the quality of work, and stakeholder relationships.

Mastering Scope Management: Techniques for Success

Mastering Scope Management: Techniques for Success

The key to handling “out of scope” lies in mastering scope management. Here are some proven techniques for successful scope management:

  1. Scope Planning: This involves defining and documenting a detailed scope statement. It should be as comprehensive as possible, including project objectives, deliverables, milestones, costs, deadlines, and stakeholder roles. You can also establish a checklist of out-of-scope activities or project exclusions besides the project activities

  2. Scope Definition: Here, you break down the scope statement into smaller, manageable components. This breakdown creates a clear picture of what needs to be delivered and helps avoid misunderstanding.

  3. Scope Verification: It’s essential to verify the scope with all stakeholders to ensure they have a mutual understanding of the project’s goals, deliverables, and limitations.

  4. Scope Control: This involves managing changes to the project scope. Any change, even small ones, should be documented and communicated to all stakeholders to prevent scope creep.

  5. Scope Reporting: Regularly report on the project’s progress in relation to the agreed-upon scope. This helps stakeholders understand where the project stands and if there are any deviations from the scope.

Key takeaway:

Successful scope management involves careful planning, definition, verification, control, and reporting.

Case Studies: The Impact of "Out of Scope"

Case Studies: The Impact of “Out of Scope”

To truly understand the impact of “out of scope”, let’s look at a few case studies.

  1. Case Study 1: The Sydney Opera House: Originally budgeted at AUD 7 million with a completion date in 1963, the project ended up costing AUD 102 million and was finished in 1973, ten years late. The primary reason? Continual design changes led to significant “out of scope” project tasks.

  2. Case Study 2: The Denver International Airport: The airport’s baggage handling system was a prime example of scope creep. The original plan was for a standard system, but the scope was expanded to include an automated system. This led to a delay of 16 months and cost overruns of USD 560 million.

Key takeaway:

Real-world examples like the Sydney Opera House and Denver International Airport underline the crucial importance of managing “out of scope” to prevent project failure.

In project management, there are three traditional project constraints; time, scope and cost. However, there are even more project constraints that can affect a construction project, such as resources, quality and risk so it is especially important in some industries not to allow things to gradually become out of scope.

Top 5 Mistakes in Managing "Out of Scope"

Top 5 Mistakes in Managing “Out of Scope”

Many project managers struggle with managing “out of scope” because they fall into common pitfalls. Here are the top 5 mistakes to avoid:

  1. Lack of clarity: If the project scope is not clearly defined and understood by all stakeholders, it can lead to confusion and result in “out of scope” tasks.

  2. Poor communication: Failure to communicate effectively can mean that changes in scope are not properly addressed and managed.

  3. Ignoring small changes: Even minor changes can add up over time and lead to scope creep. It’s essential to document and communicate all changes, no matter how small.

  4. Lack of documentation: Without thorough documentation, it can be hard to prove what was initially agreed upon, leading to disputes and confusion.

  5. Not pushing back: It can be difficult, but sometimes it’s necessary to push back on “out of scope” requests. Failing to do so can result in scope creep and project failure.

Key takeaway:

Avoiding common mistakes in managing “out of scope” can help keep your project on track and prevent scope creep.

FAQs About "Out of Scope"

FAQs About “Out of Scope”

What is “scope creep”?

Scope creep is the tendency for the project scope to expand beyond its original objectives due to changes or additions during the project execution.

How can I avoid scope creep?

You can avoid scope creep by clearly defining your project scope from the start, managing changes effectively, and maintaining constant communication with stakeholders.

Why is it important to manage “out of scope” requests?

Managing “out of scope” requests is vital to maintaining the integrity of your project. These requests can lead to resource strain, delays, and cost overruns.

Can “out of scope” requests ever be beneficial?

Yes. In some cases, “out of scope” requests can provide valuable insights or improvements that were not considered initially. The key is to evaluate each request carefully.

What should I do if a stakeholder insists on an “out of scope” request?

If a stakeholder insists on a request, evaluate the potential impact, communicate this with the stakeholder, and negotiate terms if necessary.

What should I include in the project scope?

Your project scope should include project objectives, deliverables, tasks, deadlines, and who is responsible for each task.

How detailed should my project scope be?

The more detailed, the better. A comprehensive project scope helps avoid confusion and keeps everyone on the same page.

Can the project scope change?

Yes, but any changes should be documented, communicated, and agreed upon by all stakeholders to avoid misunderstandings.

What is the role of a project manager in managing “out of scope”?

The project manager is responsible for defining the scope, keeping the project on track, and dealing with “out of scope” requests effectively.

Are there tools to help manage project scope and “out of scope”?

Yes, there are many project management tools like Trello and Jira that can help manage project scope and deal with “out of scope” requests effectively.



Understanding “out of scope” is a key component of successful project management. By defining a clear project scope, identifying and managing “out of scope” requests effectively, and using the right tools, you can stay in control and keep your projects on track. Remember, every “out of scope” challenge is an opportunity to improve your project management skills!

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