How to Future-Proof Your Leadership & Stop Scope Creep

4 minutes
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Have you ever been in a situation where management seems to swoop in and do the work of those below them, leaving the team feeling insecure and uneasy? If so, you’re not alone. This is called scope creep and can be avoided to help you have a stronger future as a leader and organization.

At our recent conference, Virtual Dude University, leadership expert, Bud Wrenn of Pinnacle Consulting, shared more about future-proofing your leadership and stopping scope creep.


What is scope creep?

Scope creep is when leaders do work that could or should be done at the next level or two levels below them. This happens when leaders get in the weeds too much and focus more on what others should be doing than their own work.


What are the causes of scope creep? 

A big cause of scope creep is when leadership doesn’t understand how to plan for the future or how to effectively take the next steps to secure their future.

Some other reasons for scope creep include:

  • Urgency becomes a habit – This occurs when you get in a mode where you need to do everything now and expect it done immediately. That reactionary state causes you to jump in with your team to do the work. Although this is sometimes necessary, some leaders take it too far and do this consistently to build their credibility, depending more on themselves for getting something done than the team working together.
  • Functional carryover – This often happens when someone moves up in leadership (having been promoted from an individual contributor to leadership or from a first level of leadership to a second level). And it involves you demonstrating and proving that the promotion was a good decision. This leads to you relying on what you know you can do successfully, which means you end up doing the tasks of your old role in your new position, reducing the time you have to dedicate to new leadership roles.
  • Delegation deficiencies – If you can’t delegate well or have trouble delegating, you may fall into this scope creep area without the tools or confidence to share work with others.
  • Perspective misalignment – The higher you go in an organization, the more abstract the challenges will be. For some people, it’s difficult for them to see the world this way. This creates a gap or misalignment in perspectives and leads to scope creep.


Learn more about Bud’s tips for planning and leadership in his book.


Four types of work

It’s important that you are aware of the different types of work to help you prevent scope creep and hone your leadership skills. Let’s narrow it down to four:

  1. Invigorating – Work that energizes and fulfills 
  2. Draining – Work that makes you tired and drains you of energy
  3. Value-added work – Work that is done at the most efficient (and proper) level of the organization
  4. Non value-added work – Work that results from you doing things that someone below you could or should be doing

The key is to tap into the cost-effective and efficient nature of filling your time with invigorating and value-added work. Not that you won’t have draining work, but it’s critical to find the right cadence to balance with the other types of work.


How can you reduce scope creep?

Delegation is a key component here.

Some key advice from Bud: Good leaders always help their people delegate well in order to maximize the flow of work.

They don’t just focus on how they’re delegating but also how those they manage are able to delegate.

You may even have to call this out to your boss, by saying “I see that you’re doing XYZ, and I think I could help do some of that to help free up your time.

What is the definition of delegation? It is simply the distribution of work responsibilities and tasks to subordinates in such a way that balances the workload and maximizes the productivity of the individual subordinates, and the team as a whole.

Bud says, “In order to reverse the scope creep, we have to learn the practice of delegation and to do it well.”

And to future-proof your organization, you need to work and lead in the level of organization that you’re in, instead of working in the weeds or doing someone else’s tasks.

Here are a few reasons why leaders may not delegate well: 

  • A desire to maintain control
  • Perfectionism
  • Compassion and empathy
  • Convenience
  • Concentrated or skewed competencies 
  • Personal relationships


Ongoing questions to help you lead better

Here are some questions you can ask yourself and of your team to help you recognize and cut down on scope creep:

  • What functions need to be eliminated?
  • What functions need to be delegated?
  • What leadership functions need to be expanded?
  • What other functions may need to be repositioned in order to allow you to be more invigorated in your work?

Take a few minutes to answer each of these questions to explore where you are and where you can improve. With these considerations and tools, you can stop the scope creep and confidently help future-proof your organization.


Explore more leadership and other tips by exploring the Brightly blog.