How to Deal With Scope Crepe Request from Your Project Sponsor?

Your project sponsor should not hear this first: your request is out of project scope.

It will be an obvious case of scope crepe for you but when your project sponsor hears this as a reaction to her request, she will look at the whole scenario with a negative bias.

Your project sponsor might think that your interests are more important than project success for you.

You don’t want negatively biased project sponsor, do you?

So, even though the request your project sponsor has made is out of scope, this should not be your initial reaction.

I’m not saying that you should not put forward your point. By all means do that if that’s the right thing to do. My point is: How you convey the fact might play a significant role in your relationship with the project sponsor.

Good relationship with your project sponsor will be one of the critical success factors for your project. And I know that you want your project to be nothing but successful.

So how to handle a request where your project sponsor is asking you to do more than what was considered in initial scope?

There are many ways to do that however, below is a way that has worked for me.

I’m not saying it is the only right way, I am saying that this has worked for me and it might work for you if you can fit it to your unique situation.

Here is My 7 Steps Way to Deal With Scope Crepe From the Project Sponsor

  1. Listen to your project sponsor’s request. If you have received a written request then read through the request carefully. Word by word. Slowly. Exactly understanding the request is very important.
  2. Ask relevant questions, revisit the business context once again and look from the perspective of the project sponsor.
  3. Acknowledge what you have understood clearly. When you acknowledge, just state your understanding. Not your feelings about the request.
  4. Refer to your earlier understanding of the project scope and support your understanding with the factual documents such as contract agreement and project scope statement. This step requires some skills.  This is the situation where you can use passive voice actively. Example: My understanding of project scope suggests that we were to carry out 7 tasks. I am finding it difficult to figure out what you are suggesting in the scope statement. Would you please spare few minutes of your time so that we can go through it and I can better my understanding? This activity will draw the attention to the right things and project sponsor would start looking at the request from your perspective.
  5. Now, it is clearly understood that the request is out of project scope, raise a concern that you won’t be able to meet the cost, quality and time criteria as the scope is changing and this might impact the project results. There might be situations where project sponsor agrees to carry out the new changes in the next phase.
  6. Once your project sponsor is convinced about that then ask her the revision of agreement, issuing of a change request as the scope is changing.
  7. It is most likely that the project sponsor will get to know your point of view and base further actions on that.

When you are following above process, essentially you are seeking first to understand and then to be understood.

Now, that’s the fifth habit from the Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People book, that is a great read for every project manager who want to be effective not only in his career but his life.

If you understand your project sponsor’s world, it is most likely that they will understand your world. Well, in most cases.

That’s what you want, isn’t it?

Just don’t make your project sponsor feel that you are on their side, be on their side while serving your interests too.

What If Above Process Doesn’t Work?

There will be cases where your project sponsor would not agree to what you are suggesting. The reasons might vary. It could be plainly her inability to see the distinction or her unique situation does not permit her. Regardless of the reason, you should do the right thing – that is to escalate the matter to appropriate channels and get the matter resolved.

Sure, escalation is the last thing that a project manager should do. However, it is more important to get the matter resolved such that the project goals can be met regardless of the ways.

As someone who is accountable for project results, you have only one goal – to deliver the project successfully. If project sponsor comes in a way then you better deal with that as well :)