I led a discussion this past weekend at BarCampMemphis on how to deal with Scope Creep. A Scope Creep is not a person who can’t get enough of mouthwash. Scope Creep is a somewhat naturally occuring phenomena within organizations that can hinder growth and often makes it come to a screeching halt.

Scope Creep occurs when a person or persons responsibilities increase so much that they no longer are able to perform at anything well, forget about everything on their plate. It happens naturally because leadership is focusing on keeping growth moving or has too few resources to deploy. LEadership keeps adding responsibilities to the best players on the team or dumping unwanted responsibilities on anyone they can. Confusion and/or poor performance ensue and all of a sudden it seems nothing can get done.

It also happens because people are ambitious and want to take on more responsibilities and find it hard to say no. Or they resist giving something up when a new responsibility is added.

I’ve found that a few effective exercises can keep scope creep undercontrol. First keep asking the questions “what are you accountable for?” as opposed to “what are you responsibile for?” This question seems to clarify things. Find a way to measure the accountability by creating a metric for it.

Second, regularly, (at least twice a year, preferrably four times a year) do a organizational chart review. First list all the area of accountability and then match up the person in the organization to the accountabilities. If you find one name popping up in several slots, creep has occured. If you find lots of names in one slot, creep has occurred. Make sure only one name is in each slot, preferrably the best qualified one. And then fill any unfilled slots. And make sure each person in each slot knows what number they have to hit to succeed.

A third thing to do is the “Stop Doing” exercise. Regularly get your team together and create a detailed list of functions that are being performed. Then critically ask yourself and the team, which of these should “we stop doing” because it’s redundant, no longer needed, or serves no purpose. It’s a great meeting to have. Motivates people and finds time and eliminates waste.

These aren’t the only ways to keep scope creep at bay. But it helps. What techiniques do you recommend?