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 [Note].
- 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.
- Nasty Questions: II
- In meetings, telemeetings, and email we sometimes ask questions that aren't intended to elicit information.
Rather, they're indirect attacks intended to advance the questioner's political agenda. Here's part
two of a catalog of some favorite tactics.
- Worst Practices
- We hear a lot about best practices, but hardly anybody talks about worst practices. So as a public service,
here are some of the best worst practices.
- Pariah Professions: I
- In some organizations entire professions are held in low regard. Their members become pariahs to some
people in the rest of the organization. When these conditions prevail, organizational performance suffers.
- Holding Back: II
- Members of high-performing teams rarely hold back effort. But truly high performance is rare in teams.
Here is Part II of our exploration of mechanisms that account for team members' holding back effort
they could contribute.
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- When we speak or write, the phrases we use have both form and meaning. Although we usually think of form and meaning as distinct, we tend to assess as more meaningful and valid those phrases that are more beautifully formed. The rhyme-as-reason effect causes us to confuse the validity of a phrase with its aesthetics. Available here and by RSS on December 11.
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- As we assess the validity of others' statements, we risk making a characteristically human error — we confuse the beauty of their language with the reliability of its meaning. We're easily thrown off by alliteration, anaphora, epistrophe, and chiasmus. Available here and by RSS on December 18.
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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.
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