Last time, we introduced scopemonging — the use of gradual, planned scope expansion for political ends or to overcome organizational obstacles. By first gaining approval for something reasonable and less ambitious, scopemongers manipulate the organization into attempting something that's unreasonable or overly ambitious.
When the tactic is successful, scopemongers commandeer resources already committed elsewhere. They place the organization at risk, and their actions can result in severe stress and overwork for the people around them.
We examined several indicators of possible scopemonging last time. Here are a few more.
- In for a penny, in for a pound
- Sometimes, later in the project, the scopemonger asserts that we've committed such a high level of resources to the project already that we cannot "afford" to fail. Ironically, scope expansion itself often presents even greater threats to the organization than failure would .
- To refute their arguments, focus on increased costs and on how scope expansion threatens the probability of success. If the scopemonger has used the same tactic in the past, point to that and ask, "When will this end?"
- There are always those who want to carry out tasks that aren't yet budgeted or that are inconsistent with the organizational mission. Perhaps they want to work with a new technology or try a novel strategy, or there might be a feature they've long wanted to add. Scopemongers sometimes bribe these people by advocating for these items as a means of winning allies within the project team.
- If you suspect scopemonging, describe the bribery tactic to colleagues in advance of its use. Gain commitment to a united position opposing scope expansion by identifying bribery as a tool of scopemongers.
- Scopemongers also use flattery to elevate and manipulate the leading team members. They might say, "We want you to do this work, because frankly, we think you're the only ones up to the challenge."
- Flattery is Scopemongers place the organization
at risk, and their actions can result
in severe stress and overwork
for the people around themespecially helpful when success requires beyond-the-call-of-duty effort by the people flattered. Flattery can distort judgment. It can make the flattered believe that the impossible is possible and that the unsuitable is suitable.
- Migration patterns
- Sometimes the organization successfully resists scope creep, and the scopemonger moves on, seeking a more vulnerable piece of the organization. Often, he or she then targets for acquisition the same resources previously targeted, now using a different project as a base.
- In some ways, the scopemonger behaves like the mole in Whack-a-Mole. Defeat scopemongers in one place, and up they pop somewhere else, again trying to expand the scope of some project or other.
Because scopemongers can create stress and push people to the edge of burnout and beyond, they can harm the organization even when their tactics "succeed." The damage they do isn't always immediately apparent, but it is real and it is expensive. Top Next Issue
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For more about scope creep, see "Ground Level Sources of Scope Creep," Point Lookout for July 18, 2012; "The Perils of Political Praise," Point Lookout for May 19, 2010; "Scopemonging: When Scope Creep Is Intentional," Point Lookout for August 22, 2007; "Some Causes of Scope Creep," Point Lookout for September 4, 2002; "The Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Strategy," Point Lookout for June 29, 2011; and "The Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Task Duration," Point Lookout for June 22, 2011.
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- The High Cost of Low Trust: II
- Truly paying attention to Trust at work is rare, in part, because we don't fully appreciate what distrust
really costs. Here's Part II of a little catalog of how we cope with distrust, and how we pay for it.
- What Insubordinate Non-Subordinates Want: III
- When you're responsible for an organizational function, and someone not reporting to you doesn't comply
with policies you rightfully established, trouble looms. What role do supervisors play?
- Ground Level Sources of Scope Creep
- We usually think of scope creep as having been induced by managerial decisions. And most often, it probably
is. But most project team members — and others as well — can contribute to the problem.
- Staying in Abilene
- A "Trip to Abilene," identified by Jerry Harvey, is a group decision to undertake an effort
that no group members believe in. Extending the concept slightly, "Staying in Abilene" happens
when groups fail even to consider changing something that everyone would agree needs changing.
- Behavioral Indicators of Political Risk
- Avoiding dangerous political interactions is easier if you know what to look for. Among the indicators
of possible trouble are the behaviors of the people around you.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
- A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
- And on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
- Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 1.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.