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Scope Creep

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Jack Gates

Herman Wouk, at age 97, has written a new book – The Lawgiver – the story of a film project about Moses. It is also an insightful study in the dynamics of a project.

In the book, the character Wouk is the advisor to the ‘money guy’. He is to read and offer his approval or rejection of the final script.

Simple – straightforward – clear role at the outset of the project.

Of course he has other projects underway as well – including writing a book about Moses – and is feeling the pressure of balancing obligations with a keen eye to time available due to his advanced age.

Early on, the writer sent Wouk for review her story notes for developing the script. His wife, Betty Sarah Wouk, acting as his agent, asked how this work fit into his agreed role? It doesn’t, but he still invested time reading the notes – beyond the scope of his agreement.

Later in the project he received an urgent request from the director to review the almost completed script immediately and give his approval. Being curious, he dropped everything to read the script. His wife/agent again asked how this work fit into his agreed role and refused to permit him to give any feedback at this time.

After about three or four months, the writer completed the script and sent it to Wouk for reading. He read it and approved it – satisfying his role in the project.

The Lawgiver shows a seemingly natural evolution of the project team to expand the scope of team members, the tendency of the individuals to become more involved – with no one giving thought to the effect on their original agreement. The book does a good job of painting a clear picture of how such actions affect most of the participants in the project.

A leader wants to get the biggest bang for the buck, but scope creep causes overuse of resources and missing budgets, yielding unintentional outcomes. Being clear about roles in a project – and sticking to those roles – leads to a more rational use of resources and can open up opportunity for other individuals to gain experience.

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