Hope creep is a variation of scope creep in project management where team members, behind schedule, report they are on time, hoping to catch up. This type of behavior is caused by bold optimism and a desire not to disappoint stakeholders. Unfortunately, hope creep ultimately leads to disappointment, harms stakeholder relationships, and can cause significant delays and budget overruns.
An example of hope creep can be seen in John, the project manager for a new office building. John was responsible for ensuring the project was completed on time and within budget. However, as the project progressed, John realized that they were falling behind schedule. Instead of admitting this to the stakeholders, John continued to report that the project was progressing well and ahead of schedule. He hoped to catch up and make up for lost time by reporting higher percentages of completion than what was actually achieved.
Initially, this strategy seemed to work. The stakeholders were pleased with the progress and had no reason to suspect that anything was wrong. However, as the weeks went by, John found it increasingly difficult to keep up the charade. The actual progress of the project was much lower than what he was reporting.
When the stakeholders eventually found out about the true progress of the project, they were disappointed and frustrated. They had expected the project to be completed on time and within budget, and now they had to adjust their expectations and budget. The delay caused by John’s hope creep strategy had a ripple effect on the project, leading to additional costs and further delays.
The lesson learned from John’s experience is that honesty and transparency are critical in construction management. It is always better to face the reality of a low actual percentage completed than to engage in hope creep. By being transparent and honest about the progress of the project, the project manager can work with stakeholders to develop a plan to address the delays and make up for lost time. Ultimately, honesty is always the best policy in construction management.
At stage A of the graph displayed above, there was a widening gap between the actual percentage of work completed and the planned percentage. The project manager faced a decision to report the actual percentage or to report different progress but he decided to report different progress hoping to make up for the gap in the next stage, stage B. However, the gap in stage B did not decrease as the project manager had hoped, and he made the same decision to report fake progress. This cycle repeated in stages C, D, and E, resulting in a significant discrepancy between the reported progress and actual performance, with no chance of recovery.
It’s worth noting that the Planning Engineer may also face such decisions, and the project management mistakes discussed in this article can apply to their role as well.
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