Scope Creep v Flexible Scope – Undisciplined v Agile

Bart asked “What do I do when agile is abused as an excuse for scope creep?” with the sub-text “You’re agile so you’re flexible, no?”. I say point out the difference between scope creep and flexible scope. Agile makes changing scope a zero sum game – that gives flexibility without the creepiness.

Agile is about flexibility and specifically about flexible scope. But flexible scope is not the same as scope creep.

Scope creep is uncontrolled increase of scope. The product owner, technical lead, project manager, random stakeholders, whoever, can add features without constraint. This is always to the detriment of the project.

In contrast flexible scope of an Agile project is controlled. A disciplined Product Owner will only add features when they have made space by removing other features first. This is requirements trade off and is a zero sum game. Regardless of the changes the size of the total scope remains the same.

Only in the rare situation when the velocity of the team is higher than expected can the total scope increase. Again this is not Scope Creep as this is a control change of scope based on data.

In the case where velocity is lower than expected a good Product Owner will shed lower priority functionality. Quite the reverse of Scope Creep.

This post is part of my What do I do When … ? series. Please drop me a line or add a comment if you’ve got a question you’d like answered.