Scope Creep

Scope Creep


            Currently, I am dealing with the perfect example of scope creep within a project. Due to my state standing strong with its push of the common core standards, our district has been changing some of the course objectives and goals. The fine arts are also in the initial stages of changing the content of our course to match the new national core arts standards that was just rolled out a month or so ago. With these two huge initiatives it seemed like the right time to reevaluate each of the classes we teach and the course objectives.

District 186 has six high school art teachers and we have started the process of working together to achieve these new standards and implement them into our classes. What started out strong and seemed most of us were heading in the right direction quickly changed. The art teacher that I working with in my building has been in the district the longest and took it upon herself to change the way we look at each high school. She thinks that we need to start our own Fine arts academy and have a high school geared towards the arts. A lot of this push from her stems around the huge budget cuts our district faces. This year we lost one art teacher and if things do not change financially in our state we may lose more. Her thought that if we have a fine art academy it will make it harder for our district to continue to cut the arts. She has brought school board members in and other content areas to try and make this happen. Another problem is that the art teacher has placed a mentality with the other art teachers of “either your with us or your against us” with the new school.

While I agree, a fine art academy would be huge for our district; it has definitely changed what we first set out to do. It is one thing to change the standards for some classes we teach, but it is another to change the entire culture in which we view our high schools. A project of this size could take years to implement as opposed to a few months with the standards.

Here is why this occurred. First, we do not have any project manager; it’s basically a free-for-all. We have a fine arts coordinator, but her expertise is in music and not visual art, so she tends to stay with the music side of things. As stated, Portny et. al. describes the (2008) “process leads to misunderstanding on the part of the party requesting the change, and before the project manager can undo the dam- age, the organization is committed to extending the scope of the project”(p. 346). This was done when school board members were brought in about the fine art academy without a discussion with the other art teachers and coordinator.

While I believe the idea of a fine art academy is great, I think it will eventually get squashed by board members due to funding. The biggest problem we face is all the time wasted with this and very little has been done with what we initial set out to do. With no true leader, I often times think I work in a modern day Game of Thrones.



Portny, Samuel E. Project Management: Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling Projects. John Wiley & Sons, 032007. VitalBook file.


8 responses to “Scope Creep

  1. Jacob this is a classic example of why design projects are in need of a project manager or at least an experienced instructional designer. Without one of two people, I just mentioned you run the risk of a project failing miserably because of re-work. Lynch and Roecker (2007) explained that a “experienced instructional designer knows how to maximize the value of each quality assurance task, and minimize the time spent on peripheral and less important issues” (p.101). You are very correct in saying, that if you team had an instructional designer or project manager in charge I am sure that you would not have ran into this scope creep situation.

    Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery, and management. London: Routledge. Copyright by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

    • From working as an artist and getting requests left and right from all departments needing artwork done they all have the mind set that what I do is easy or quick or there’s a magic button I press to get things to the quality they need. It’s ridiculous to think that something as big as changing the entire culture of taking art classes to a huge program in a few months is asking for failure or at best constant problems or issues from things not being properly planned and the needed time to do the research and then to actually implement it.

      Interesting post I hope all goes well for you.

      • Joan,
        I hear you on the requests. The amount of logos and graphics I am asked to design during my teaching load is amazing. Administration gets upset if they see a teacher sitting at their computer but yet I am asked to design logos during the day. Sometimes people just don’t get the amount of time it takes to create the simplest of things.

    • Jake –
      I hear you. It seems that there are a lot of people in the country who are so afraid of Common Core that there are actual groups being formed to try and overrule it. Quite frankly, it’s not going to happen. It seems that the scope creep you are experiencing is internal and it coming from all of the stakeholders being in disagreement. Change is not easy and it is certainly not comfortable. We know this from our Organizational Change course. Anyway, it seems that if any teacher is involved in a change movement within their school nowadays, they will inevitably encounter some sort of push back or “scope creep” from a project management point of view. Here is something I came across while holding my own meeting about planning for next school year.
      Check out the Action Item where it advertises a night about not conforming to Common Core.

    • Torey,
      Thanks for the reply. Yes, I believe that if we had some sort of project manager this would have been avoided. It was interesting during our last meeting with a school board member that really is for the idea..he mentioned that this could take a few years to get going. The look on the art teachers face was of shock. I think some do not realize how big a project can become.

  2. TL

    You provide a good example of how too many projects are developed and implemented. As you state, many are doomed for failure from the onset. Pinto (2007) defines project risk as essentially “any possible event that can negatively affect the viability of a project” (p. 221). It doesn’t sound as if this project was planned very well and certainly goals and objectives were not clear. This does sound like a huge project involving many stakeholders and cultures; and as projects become larger and more complex, uncertainty increases project risk (Portny et al., 2008). This example is probably similiar to projects happening in many school districts.

    Pinto , J. K. (2007). Project management: Achieving comptetitive advantage. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.

    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. [Kindle Edition]. Retrieved from

    • Tim,
      I have always said that if a fortune 500 CEO came into about any school district they would be amazed at how things are handled. A perfect example, my last meeting with about 100 teachers present showed some of the things I deal with. During our group time, a person sat in front with a self-made chart called “noise volume”. She would move it if the voices during the meeting were getting to loud. It amazes me some of the things we deal with as professional adults.

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