When the Project Manager is Behind the Scope Creep


February 14, 2013 by idinnovation

Project management is the process that allows instructional designers to complete their work thus the larger the project the greater the need for project management (Stolovich, 2012).  The project manager is responsible for planning for the needs of the project and organizes and controls the progression of the project until completion (Russell, 2000).

Brandon (2004) contends that the skill-set required by project managers differs from those required by instructional designers. Instructional designers might find themselves in a role where they are managed by a project manager, they might also perform every role and manage themselves or they can serve as the project manager and be less involved with day-to-day development (Stolovich, 2012). The instructional design process usually includes the core components of the (ADDIE) model analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation (Lin, 2006). Project management activities include creating project schedules, holding status meetings and hiring more resources.   Because instructional designers can sometimes play a dual role and act as project managers as well as instructional designers (Stolovich, 2012) it is necessary for the instructional designer or project manager to identify the key characteristics and attributes that are important to stakeholders (Allen, & Hardin, 2008).

Using the resources provided it is understood the role of the instructional designer and project manager are conflicting yet complimenting.  An analysis of previous personal experiences would reveal a lack of concern for the project manager’s role in ensuring the deadlines were met.  As an instructional designer my focus has always been on creating the best learning resources utilizing the resources I am allocated.  At times these resources have been very limited however; projects were completed within budget and on schedule. New experiences place me in a position as not only the instructional designer but also the project manager.  Deciding when to spend more time designing, editing, allocating resources and creating schedules are now daily task.  Fixating on how to remove barriers in order to complete the project is only 50 percent of the job, the other half is designing. Finding a medium for these two roles has been one of the core issues I have been faced with.  I am an instructional designer that knows how to be a project manager not the other way around.  This sometimes leaves me feeling conflicted but this isn’t a case study this is real life and my job is to manage the project to the best of my ability which requires that I make decisions based on the project scope, schedule and budget all while completing my instructional design task.

What happens when the instructional designer in me is the person initiating scope creep?!?  Although it’s easier said than done, managing the scope creep is the project managers’ job. Often times I find myself wanting to design instead of format or analyze instead of design; design instead of develop the list of combinations are endless. As the project manager it is my job to ensure that the tasks are completed in the appropriate order. Some of the ways to do this is to ensure you thoroughly understand the project vision, break the project down into major and minor components with approval check points, and align project deliverables to work requirements, employ Change Order forms from the beginning, inform project drivers of the processes (Doll, 2001) and create a Work Breakdown Structure or RASCI.  These tools help to ensure that project managers are effective and successful.


Allen, S., & Hardin, P. C. (2008). Developing instructional technology products using effective project management practices. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 19(2), 72–97. Copyright by Springer-Verlag, New York. Russell, L. (2000). Project management for trainers. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Brandon, B. (2004, October 11). Closing the Loop in e-Learning Development: How to reconnect instructional design and project management. Learning Solutions Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/283/closing-the-loop-in-e-learning-development-how-to-reconnect-instructional-design-and-project-management.

Doll, S. (2001, March 31). Seven steps for avoiding scope creep. TechRepublic – A Resource for IT Professionals. Retrieved January 19, 2013, from http://www.techrepublic.com/article/seven-steps-for-avoiding-scope-creep/1045555

Fabac,   J.   N.   (2006).   Project   management   for   systematic   training.   Advances in Developing Human Resources, 8(4), 540-547.

Lin, H. (2006). Instructional project management: An emerging professional practice for design and training programs. Workforce Education Forum, 33(2).

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Russell, L. (2000). Project management for trainers. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Stolovich. (2012). “Defining the Scope of an ID Project”. Retrieved on January 12, 2012 from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2097260_1%26url%3D

Stolovich, H. (2012). Project Management and Instructional Design. Retrieved on January 8, 2012 from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2097260_1%26url%3D

4 thoughts on “When the Project Manager is Behind the Scope Creep

  1. Hi Sharifa – you describe a common situation where the instructional designer is also the project manager and some of the challenges involved. You have wisely listed understanding the project vision, dividing the project into major and minor components with check points, aligning project deliverables to work requirements, deploying change order forms, and creating work breakdown structures as strategies as solutions to the challenges of scope creep.

    A recent study demonstrating the relationship between ISD and project management states:

    “If project management and ISD are married, there are at least three areas where project management can assist instructional designers in doing a better job with regard to efficiency: the project charter, Gantt charts and the critical path method.”

    The study further highlights the importance of coordinated and concerted efforts in project management and ISD to complete instructional design projects effectively and efficiently. Because each approach has its strengths and weaknesses, the coordination of the two can create a synergy and improve the output of the instructional design project (Cheng-Chang, 2012).

    Cheng-Chang, P. (2012). A symbiosis between instructional systems design and project management. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, v38 n1 (15). Retrieved from http://ehis.ebscohost.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/ehost/detail?vid=3&sid=a3e676b8-2dc7-4fb4-b8e0-43fcca2f12ad%40sessionmgr10&hid=8&bdata=JnNjb3BlPXNpdGU%3d#db=eric&AN=EJ968187

  2. Sharifa,

    Acting as PM and instructional designer is always a challenge. The one advantage is that as an instructional designer, you are involved from the beginning in establishing learning objectives and how to meet them. Once you have a clear vision on those, it will help you limit your own scope creep. Of course, I am sure you will still get it from somewhere else. As an ID, developing appropriate objectives and aligning those to the solution I am developing provides a great way to avoid my own scope creep.

    • Sharifa,
      PM have a hard job. First of all having team members under him/her and trying to do a project is tough enough not even knowing about the project. The PM of this project should have came in and laid the law down from the beginning of the project and everything else would have fell in place. Clear and effective communication is the key to good projects.

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