Scope seep - dripping waterI learned about Scope Seep while working as an architect and project manager. Like scope creep, it is one of those subtle things that on the surface looks harmless…like you are just being nice and adding exceptional customer service. Below the surface, it is insidious as it eats away at your business and profits.

SO what is scope seep?

Scope seep the situation in which YOU keep adding features or services beyond the scope of the contract, beyond the scope of the agreed upon service or beyond the base product. It is a sign of perfectionist tendencies. You also see it when a person doesn’t understand scoping of projects and services or a lack of understanding of what the client will be happy with.

Creative people struggle with scope seep because they want to create something beautiful that they are proud of. Engineers and information technology programers also struggle with this trying to create perfect features. (Okay, most of us struggle with this at some point…)

On the surface, it looks like exceptional customer service (just like scope seep).

Scope Seep Analogy #1: National Corvette Museum Sink Hole

Let’s use the National Corvette Museum Sink Hole as a metaphor. This surveillance video shows a gaping sinkhole emerge beneath the Museum swallowing prized cars like they were toys. (45 seconds)

The National Corvette Museum created this base infographic about how the sinkhole formed with help by Jason Polk, Assistant Professor of Geography and Geology at Western Kentucky University.

National Corvette Museum sink hole infographic - Scope seep


 How does this relate to your business? Imagine that your business is the tree in the infographic. Whenever you add unnecessary features to your products or services to your programs, you are eroding the  foundation of your business by taking away profits and your time that you could be using to grow your business. Developing well balanced programs and products that meet your client and customers needs are just as critical as the pricing of them.

Scope Seep Analogy #2: Marriage Ceremony/Party

This example is courtesy of a friend. If you have been married, are married, or have just thrown a party…you can relate to this.

She was coordinating the party and like many couples, wanted everything to be PERFECT. She decided that she needed platters to showcase the food on and went to a lot of effort of transporting all of these platters to the event. When she got them there, the caterer didn’t know what to do with them since it was a plated dinner (not a buffet). On top of that, she decided it would be neat to have a pie eating contest to celebrate for her new husband who loves pie. As she told this story, you could feel her pain at this major distraction when the celebration of their marriage was the important thing.

What things are distracting you from the simple elegant product or service that you could be offering?

 Sucking your profits dry.

When you price your products and services, you start with a set of assumptions that cover your overhead costs, the cost of materials to deliver that product or service, some assumptions regarding the time required to produce and deliver that product or service, contingency in case something unexpected comes up (economic changes, equipment breaks down, etc.) and hopefully you factored in some profit. Scope seep sucks your profits dry by adding features and services that aren’t necessary.

I look at it like this: give your best on the current project or client. Add the new service or feature to the next iteration if it will be beneficial.  (You also have the option of discussing the item with your client to see if it is something they actually want, if so, update the contract/service agreement!)

Potential legal and financial risk.

What happens when you do work that was not agreed upon? Big one is that you may not get paid. This happened to somebody I know for about $40,000 of work that they did without the clients agreement.

When YOU ADD something (scope seep) to your product or service without evaluating how it will effect your price, YOU lose profit. You also lose TIME that you could be spending on a paying client, TIME you could be spending with your family or friends, TIME you could do something for yourself, TIME you could be spending to grow your business.

Is this sounding similar to the scope creep article?

Frustrated man - scope creep - stealingWhen you think about it, scope seep is STEALING from your business!

I understand that you were probably not trained to recognize scope seep prior to this blog post. This isn’t just about you though…it is also about your staff. Most people are not trained in this concept.

I’ll end this with the words of Bob Newhart…“Stop IT!”