Mitigating Scope Creep Through an Evaluation Plan

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By Dr. A. Christson Adedoyin, MSW, MATS, PhD

Scope Creep in program evaluation according to Brown and Gerhardt (2002) refers to “the incremental growth of project requirements that expand beyond the bounds of the original project plan and/or contract” (p. 974). From the conceptual definition above, Scope Creep implies the unexpected, or unintended “ballooning” of a consulting engagement far beyond the original intentions and contract signed with the stakeholders (that is, Churches).

Understanding and guarding against Scope Creep is therefore, a sine qua none for Church consultants as they engage congregations or faith-based organizations within the spectrum of faith-based program design and program evaluation. A biblical reference that warned against Scope Creep is Exodus 25:40 (NLT) “Be sure that you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you here on the mountain”. It is therefore important for Church Consultants not to be over-zealous by going beyond the agreed upon scope, or project deliverables with Churches.

Causes of Scope Creep 

Several reasons can be responsible for Scope Creep in Church consulting. For instance, Dunsworth and Billings (2011) mentioned “the need to ‘improve’ on the existing plan by adding new questions … or data collections” (p.7). In their own view Brown and Gerhardt (2002) opined that stakeholders’ feedback during interviews and data collection can cause Scope Creep in program evaluation, and by extension in Church consulting.

In addition, Larson and Larson (2009, para. 9) listed other causes of Scope Creep which may include, but not limited to: (i) Unclear program requirements or objectives, (ii) absence of clearly articulated program goals and planning especially logic modelling, and (iii) failure to use professionals (such as Church consultants) in the program evaluation planning phase of a program.

Consequences of Scope Creep

The consequences of Scope Creep in Church consulting engagement are numerous. Some of the consequences according to Larson and Larson (2009 and applicable to Church consulting are: (i) Increase in the Church consulting cost, (ii) distraction from the original Church consulting goals and objectives, (iii) complication of the Church consulting process, coupled with resources and time wastages. Other consequences are inability to stay focused on the Church consulting contract and the attendant implications of not meeting the program merit, worth, and values of the Churches, or faith-based organization to mention but a few.

Strategy to Mitigate Scope Creep 

The fear of Scope Creep and the aforementioned consequences is the beginning of wisdom for having a well-defined, thoroughly-thought-through, and stakeholders-driven Evaluation Plan. To better appreciate how an Evaluation Plan is one of the best strategies to mitigate Scope Creep a definition of an Evaluation Plan is indispensably essential. An Evaluation Plan, according to the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] (2011), is “a written document that describes how you monitor and evaluate your program, as well as how you intend to use evaluation results for program improvement and decision making” (p.1).

Consequently, a well laid out Evaluation Plan prevents Scope Creep as it helps the trio of stakeholders (Church Members), decision-makers (Church Leadership and Board of Elders), and evaluators (Church consultants) to strictly adhere to specific objectives, measures, and expectations of the program being evaluated when providing feedback, especially during the interview and data gathering processes.

Furthermore, an Evaluation Plan checkmates Scope Creep by ensuring that the Church consulting engagement conforms to the processes, outcomes and measures or indicators of a Church, or faith-based organization that have retained the services of a Church consultant. An Evaluation Plan also helps to arrest Scope Creep by helping to prioritize evaluation questions and actions. Conclusively, having Church consulting Evaluation Plan provides clarity, transparency, and collaborative planning of the consulting process with stakeholders, decision-makers, and ultimately the delivery and dissemination of the consulting deliverables.


Brown, K. G., & Gerhardt, M. W. (2002). Formative evaluation: An integrative practice model

and case study. Personnel Psychology55(4), 951-983.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Developing an effective evaluation

Plan: Setting the course for effective program evaluation. Atlanta: CDC.

Dunsworth, M., Billings, D. L., & Dunsworth, M. (2011). Effective program evaluation.

Bloomington, Indiana: Solution Tree Press.

Larson, R. & Larson, E. (2009). Top five causes of scope creep … and what to do about them.

Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2009—North America, Orlando, FL. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Schwalbe, K. (2016). Revised, an introduction to project management, fifth edition: With a brief

guide to Microsoft Project Professional 2016. (5th ed.). Minneapolis, MN: Schwalbe Publishing.

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