Coping with change is the most important single problem that project managers face during projects (Portny, 2014). Lots of factors can influence a project such as new technologies and materials, new requirements and needs, or “the natural tendency of the client, as well as project team members, to try to improve the project’s output as the project progresses” (Portny, 2014, p. 346). That phenomenon called scope creep can impact the project schedule.
A while ago, I won a contest at a local shopping mall by submitting my dream for the island. My dream was to provide more education for the local community on how to treat animals. Unfortunately, we have many stray cats and dogs, and many pets that do have owners are treated badly. I believed (and still do) that more education might lead to improvement.
The shopping mall’s marketing manager contacted me, the client, one month before the planned event, and he suggested that we would organize an adoption day for stray cats and dogs. He took the lead and came up with some suggestions on how to organize the day. He wanted to have some dogs outside so people could adopt them immediately.
However, my idea of an adoption day was different and after our first meeting, where we planned a few things, I started thinking: I also wanted to include cats, and I wanted to organize it inside, as the temperatures outside would be too high for cats and dogs. Also, the shopping audience would be mostly inside. Also, I believed that only organizing an adoption day was not going to solve the key issue: a lack of knowledge. That is why I came up with the idea of involving all the animal rescue organizations on the island. I wanted to invite as many volunteers as possible so that they could pass out flyers and talk to people in person. I wanted to create an educational video that would be displayed in the food court to pass on an educational message to a broad audience. I wanted to invite a veterinarian who could answer people’s questions regarding medical issues. I wanted fun activities for kids (e.g. animal face painting, animal photo booth, animal balloons) to attract a broad audience. In summary, I wanted MORE than just an adoption day. Because I wanted more, the organization took more time. We planned on organizing the event on World Animal Day (October 4th), which meant that we only had one month to organize everything.
Because the marketing manager did not know much about the world of animal rescues, I took over the organizational part so instead of being the client, I also became the project manager. I contacted all stakeholders, I organized meetings, I sent them the necessary information by email, and I created a plan.
There was no official project schedule, so I quickly created one. It was impossible to extend the project as it was already planned for October 4th, so we had to work overtime to complete everything. There was no specific budget, but I knew that the mall would support my dream, as that was the prize for winning the contest. I was stressed because we had so little time but I managed to organize everything except the balloon man, who canceled last minute. Unfortunately, the marketing manager, who promised me that there would be advertisements in the local newspapers and an interview on the local TV station, did not manage to provide the promotion for the event. We did have a lot of visitors, but I think we could have had more if the promotion would have been better. Also, on the day of the event, the marketing manager decided to show a soccer game in the food court instead of the educational video. That was very disappointing.
If I had to do another project like this, I would meet with all stakeholders at an earlier time and write down all ideas. I would document all decisions made, and share them with all stakeholders. I did that for this project as well, but unfortunately, the marketing manager did not come through with all his promises. Having someone from upper management sign it might prevent such issues. Also, I would make a clear schedule that would be available for all stakeholders with the exact tasks and responsibilities. The project schedule would include milestones, which would function as checkpoints. Last, I would create a contingency plan that would make it easier to deal with unexpected events.
“Avoiding scope creep is not possible. However, monitoring it, controlling it, and thereby reducing some of the pain is possible” (Portny, 2014, p. 347). For example, a project manager can include a change control system, and require a detailed introduction and approval of every change.
Portney, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., & Sutton, M. M. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.