My name is Mimi Doll, the owner of Candeo Consulting, Inc., an independent consulting firm that builds organizations’ capacity to create meaningful change in the communities they serve. Sometimes we can prevent scope creep with good planning, other times no matter how good our preparation is, clients either don’t have a clear sense of what they want or simply change their minds.
- Always Develop a Scope of Services and Contract. Developing a detailed scope of services, including project tasks, work hours, pricing, timeline, roles and responsibilities, makes clear to the client what services and deliverables you plan to provide, and those you don’t. Your scope serves as a communication tool about how you will proceed with the project and provides your client an opportunity to react and clarify their expectations about the work. Similarly your contract lays out a legally enforceable agreement about how you and your client will conduct business together, including key issues such as services offered, payment terms, data ownership, contract termination and renewability. Should you reach that “worst case” scenario when you and your client reach an impasse, your contract makes clear the parameters to which you’ve agreed.
Rad Resource: For more information about contracts and small business-related legal issues, see Nolo’s Online Legal Forms.
- Hone Those Communication Skills.Sometimes there are client-consultant disagreements about how a project should proceed, even after the contract has been signed. These moments call for strong communication skills: listen actively to your client, state your positions clearly, manage strong emotions (yours/your client’s) and maintain professionalism. Remember, conflicts often arise from differing perception of a situation rather than objective facts; it’s important to be able to take the client’s perspective. Make your goal about coming to a mutual agreement.
Rad Resource: see HelpGuide.org’s conflict resolution skills.
- Be Clear on Your Own Standards. When the client’s expectations about the project change between start and finish of the work, it’s important to be clear about your own standards by writing them down. Consider the following:
- Logistics & Scope Changes: How does this impact your project’s time frame, budget and staffing? Where can you be flexible and where can you not? Do alterations erase company profits; place too great a burden on your time/staffing capacity?
- Work Quality/Integrity & Scope Changes: Do requested alterations reduce the quality or rigor of data collection, create conflicts of interest, and lessen the impact of your work? In some cases these decisions are clearly outlined by professional standards, while other times we must develop our own professional standards.
Rad Resource: See AEA Guiding Principles for Evaluators.
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