This Old In-house: Beware of Creeps


You and your team executed on the project initiation phase flawlessly. You hammered out a creative brief and SOW with the client, held a focused kick-off meeting with the team and began execution of the assignment with clear direction. Then the trouble began.


The client didn’t get you the content at the agreed upon date, he asked to move the deadline up by two weeks and, oh yes, he doubled the number of pages in the brochure. Hopefully, as a manager, you were made aware of these issues and the conversation didn’t occur solely between the designer and the client with the designer feeling pressured to accept the change in course.


Assuming you did know about the requests (let’s be kind here and not call them demands), what next? Well, you just were blindsided with what is commonly known in the industry as scope creep and here are a few suggestions on how to deal with the affliction.


First, know that your client may not see these requests as outside of the original agreement and if they don’t, that was your fault. You or someone on your team should always inform your clients at the time the original scope is agreed upon that any deviations dictated by your client are subject to the antidote to scope creep – the change order. If you haven’t done this then you’ll need to educate your client on the fly. The analogy of changing your order at a restaurant and not expecting to pay more for it or wait longer often works well as a rationale for needed next steps.


Once your client agrees to crafting a change order, you need to determine with your team your response and carefully document the requested changes and the calculated associated costs and revised timing. This should be presented to your client in the same way as the original SOW.


In some instances, depending on the client, the assignment and the nature of your group’s relationship with the client, you may consciously and strategically choose to forego pursuing a change order. If that’s the case, you should note that this is a one-time action and that you may have to implement change orders on the client’s projects in the future.


Obviously, initiating change orders can become contentious, so employing tact and diplomacy is a must. Ideally, if you have an Account Management team, they can run interference with prickly clients. Bottom line, though, you need to be clear, fair and committed to setting you and your team up for success by holding your clients accountable to their end of the deal.