Scope Creep

Scope Creep

By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM™/ Published November 2017

Scope Creep  By Betsy Barbieux


Scope creep could also be called the “begets” (to procreate, produce, or cause). You see the word “beget” in the Old Testament where so and so begat so and so, and so and so begat so and so, and on and on.

Does it seem to you that everything you try to do begets or births something else? You can’t finish this until you stop and do that. Then you can’t finish that until you double check another fact, and on and on it goes for the day. Finally, by the end of the day and getting all the begets taken care of, you finish the task you started first thing this morning. You have just been the victim of scope creep. In other words, the scope of the task initially was small, but then it crept outward and took over most of the day.

Scope creep doesn’t just happen to your day; it happens to your week. You have an important meeting on Friday that needs a lot of advance preparation: room reservations; order the food; locate, copy, and bind the materials; alert janitorial that more people will be using the facilities; confirm the gate code and let all attendees know; send out reminder emails with instructions for accessing the building; arrange for extra seating; and review your PowerPoint presentation. But it’s Monday and you should have time to do all that on Thursday, right? Probably not, because your week is going to be hijacked by scope creep.

Though you might not have known the name of it (scope creep), you likely have learned that if you want to be ready for the meeting on Friday, you must get everything done on Monday. It only took one late night and being ready by the skin of your teeth to figure that out!

Scope creep probably happened to you before, during, and after Hurricane Irma. Scope creep took over your whole month and your personal and professional life!

Whether it’s a day filled with begets or catastrophic events, managing your time and energy are vital. Even on a good day there is a fair amount of stress, but then you add in the many other things that take our time and energy, such as ringing telephones, crying children, teens who argue, deadlines at work, demanding residents, vendors who don’t show up, taxiing between school events and sports practices, the news 24/7, and the demands of email, text messages, Facebook, and Messenger.  Now you’ve gone beyond scope creep to stress, panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. 

This would be a good time to remember that the demands on your time and attention are not all equal. Once you can categorize the demands (tasks), they will be somewhat easier to manage. Once categorized, however, the demands (tasks) are still not exempt from scope creep, so plan for it!

Stress is one of those factors that can be both good for us and bad at the same time.  Stress in small doses can motivate, challenge, and inspire us. 

Too much stress (usually caused by the inability to say “no”) causes us to wear out emotionally, physically, relationally, and spiritually.  If the inability to say “no” caused too much stress, then you can’t blame that stress on anyone but yourself. Sometimes you need to learn to say “no” to yourself!

Allowing the urgent things to crash in on you day after day causes stress and makes life miserable. To eliminate stress from the urgent things, you need to make the distinction between what is really important and what is merely urgent. You learn to say “yes” to the important, and “not now” to the unimportant, all the while factoring in the possibility of scope creep.

Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, defines importance as “something that contributes to your mission, your values, and your high priority goals.” Do you have a mission?  Can you verbalize your values and beliefs?  What are your high priority goals, personally and professionally?  Without answers to these, you will not know what is important.

Covey’s time management matrix divides important and urgent into four categories.

  • Important and Urgent—Examples would be crises, pressing problems, and deadline-driven projects. Some of these issues may be neither important nor urgent, but someone else thinks they are and imposes them on you. It may be appropriate to say “no” or “not now.” Or, it might be appropriate to delegate.Staying in this mode produces stress, burnout, continual crisis management, and always putting out fires.
  • Important and Not Urgent—Examples would be activities that are preventative in nature (taking yourself or the car in for a checkup), relationship building (with your spouse, children, and friends as well as within your profession), personal and professional development, brainstorming, networking, planning, and recreation (time for golf, a nap, or a vacation). Plan your work, then work your plan, and factor in scope creep.
           Spending a significant amount of time in this mode produces vision, perspective, balance, discipline, control, and fewer crises.
  • Not Important but Urgent—You mistakenly believe these are important, but they are not.Examples would be interruptions (some of which can easily be rescheduled), some telephone calls and mail (can be answered later), some reports and meetings (that you really don’t have to participate in), pressing matters (because others want you to be involved), popular activities (too long at lunch). 
           Staying in this mode will produce short-term focus, crisis management, chameleon character, seeing goals and plans as worthless, feeling victimized and out of control, and shallow or broken relationships.
  • Not Important and Not Urgent—This is often used to escape from the stress created by categories one and three.Examples would be becoming absorbed in minor details and trivia, busy work, some email and phone calls, time wasters, and pleasant activities like computer games, surfing the net, or watching television. In this mode, scope creep will be your worst enemy.
           Staying here will produce irresponsibility, getting fired, or becoming dependent on others to do your work.

People who spend time in the second category are proactive about things that are important to them. They likely live with less stress.  The “reactors” live in categories one, three, and four, and are likely highly stressed.

Spending more time in the second category will allow you to be true to yourself, to discover what is important to you, to plan your work and play, and to work your plan. But remember to expect scope creep!

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM

Florida CAM Schools

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while at the same time dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. Since 1999, Betsy has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Betsy is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. For more information, contact, (352) 326-8365, or