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You can be sure a topic has risen to stratospheric levels of absurdity when it becomes the subject of an academic treatise. And so it is with scope creep.

Can we think about this for a moment?

According to the old saw, it takes two to tango. That means the party of the first part (the one subject to the scope creep) has to aid, abet, or otherwise enable the party of the second part (the creep who’s perpetrating the creep). It also means that, if you happen to be the party of the first part, you have to keep one eye on the party of the second part, one eye on the project for which you’ve hired the party of the second part, and the other eye on your wallet.*

While scope creep is frequently subtle and surreptitious (it’s almost never inadvertent, unwitting, or unintentional), there are a few telltale signs by which all but the most insidious of parties of the second part inevitably tip their hands. Here they are:

  • When the consultant asks for your billing information, he also requests the account and routing numbers for your personal checking account, the names and ages of your children, their social security numbers, and wants to know whether you happen to have a revocable trust.
  • You arrive at your desk one morning to find a stack of papers you’ve never seen before, having to do with an initiative of which you’ve never heard before. On the top page is a handwritten note, in pencil, in the consultant’s cursive chirography, that says: “Where do we stand on this?”
  • The consultant’s Statement of Works says this, in part, under the heading of Billing:
    The party of the first part shall pay the party of the second part all remuneration due, per the party of the second part’s invoices for same (see Check, Blank).
  • The consultant comes into your office wearing latex gloves and asks if you’re ready for your project review.

At risk of appearing presumptuous, we have two suggestions for avoiding scope creep:

  1. Stay awake.
  2. Just say, “No.”

* If you don’t have three eyes, try trifocal lenses.