by Amanda Sutliff
Scope Creep is inevitable. All projects experience delays in one way or another. It’s up to the project manager to manage the risks involved in a project in order to minimize the effects of Scope Creep (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer 2008).
In my professional career as a classroom teacher I have been involved in many projects in my classroom as well as in my school or district, and each project has experienced some form of Scope Creep. Whether it’s the book project that takes an extra day for my students to complete, or the scope and sequence for a unit of study, which always takes longer than anticipated to create and even longer to follow through on, a teacher’s life is full of Scope Creep.
In a previous blog post, I wrote about the Professional Learning Community (PLC) project that my school has implemented. Last year my district started an initiative to create common formative assessments within our schools. This was a huge project that lasted all year long. Throughout the year we selected common core standards and unpacked them, then developed the common formative assessments.
In this project, our project manager often asked us to do too much work for a two and half hour session. Perhaps the project manager didn’t fully understand the tasks so the estimated required work effort was inaccurate. It’s also possible that the project manager designed the schedule by doing what Portny et al. (2008) call backing in, looking at what we had to accomplish by the end of year and working back toward the beginning and simply filling in activities to fill the calendar. This often caused us to rush into our work, especially when unpacking the new common core standards. It’s also possible that because PLC is completely new to our district, no one had historical records of how long tasks would take (Portny et al., 2008). The process very new to us, and when tasks are new, there should be extra time to allow for a learning curve (Portny et al., 2008). In this case, a fudge factor, or an allotment of extra time, might have helped us stay on the schedule.
Our project manager dealt with the Scope Creep by pushing back activities every now and then, but mostly we were asked to move on to new activities when we hadn’t completed last week’s agenda. Oftentimes, it was hard for us teachers to tell if we were supposed to be finishing activities on our own time, even though we were told to only use work time on PLC days to do the work. This resulted in a lot of what would be considered overtime (if teachers weren’t on salaries) and this would have increased our budgetary needs and caused problems.
If I had been the project manager at our school last year, I would have made sure that the teachers spent more time on each standard after unpacking. I would have extended the timeline instead of ignoring the Scope Creep, allowing for teachers to reteach and differentiate instruction for students who didn’t meet objectives and struggled with assessments. I also would have started scheduling less for us to do in a single session, which is something that Portny et al. (2008) suggest project managers do, to adjust the schedule and keep people updated on changes. In the end, we unpacked four standards and went through the common formative assessment process four times last year. If we had cut back the number of common formative assessments to three, we would have ended the year with three quality common formative assessments that we would want to use again next year. Instead, we are starting the process all over again this year, going at a slower pace that will allow us to create work worth keeping and using again in subsequent years.
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E.
(2008).Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken,
NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc