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Scope creep kills a lot of projects. Scope creep kills many more meetings. The hardest task to accomplish leading a group of people is to get them to focus. Their minds drift, twist, and become partially selective.

When the right group of people is assembled, they can accomplish nearly any task at hand if the leader can get them to focus. Yet they continue to drift, and even begin to discuss and argue about issues that are not within the scope of the meeting as they impose their own scope creep.

Stop Meeting Scope Creep with Precise Questions

Understanding Meeting Scope Creep and Precision of Your Questions 

Secrets to Prevent Meeting Scope Creep

There are two secrets to prevent scope creep in meetings. First, the session leader or facilitator needs to make the meeting scope clear when the meeting begins, as well as securing agreement from the participants about the meeting scope. Frequently meeting scope is limited by geography, duration, or situation—frequently it represents only PART OF the project scope.

When people argue about the validity or purpose of a project, for example, the discussion is usually NOT within the meeting scope. Only a conscious facilitator can police scope creep carefully.

Secondly, the facilitator needs to know the precise question that the group should be addressing. When the facilitator does not know the question, ANY answer is appropriate.  Most meeting facilitators should focus on context before meetings rather than content, by knowing the right questions and the proper sequence to ask them. They also cannot afford to ask for the meeting deliverable, as that question is so broad as to be DUMB (ie, Dull, Ubiquitous, Myopic, and Broad).

Ask Precise and Detailed Questions to Prevent Meeting Scope Creep

If a product marketing plan is the deliverable, you cannot ask “What is the product deliverable?”  For example, a marketing plan is a function of segmentation, targeting, positioning, market mix, message, medium, etc. If the question is “What are our top three market segments?” the facilitator cannot allow arguments over social media, as such content is out of scope of the question at hand.

The holarchy above illustrates the narrowing of scope, from the enterprise through the question being discussed in a meeting. The facilitator’s role is to know the precise questions that support completion of agenda steps that support completion of the meeting deliverable that support completion of the project, etc. When the facilitator does not know the right question to ask, all hell breaks loose, and rightfully so, scope creeps . . .   Do not let that happen to you.


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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