Investigating Scope Creep: A Laundry (Room) List of Quarantine Qualms

Renata Martinez

Throughout quarantine, I’ve had quite the scope creep on a project, and I thought I’d share it with you (instead of finishing the project). It all started with my desire to paint my laundry room and the connected bathroom.

The rooms were partially wallpapered with paper bags (yes, paper bags) and half painted. One wall was even wallpapered and then painted over. It had been like this since I moved in five years ago, but suddenly over quarantine, the rooms became unbearable and had to be repainted. I thought, “I’ll just remove the wallpaper and paint.” Seemed simple.

Wallpaper Before

Causes of the Laundry Room Scope Creep

Well, here we are a couple months later, and I’m still working on it. You might ask, “Why?” Well, let me tell you some of the causes:

  • I discovered multiple layers of wallpaper (the paper bags were placed over a common 80s-themed wallpaper).
  • Drywall repair was needed, I discovered.
  • I needed to apply texture to some of the walls (half were textured and half were not).
  • Since I needed to apply texture, first, I had to teach myself how to do it. Google and YouTube helped, but the pros always make it look so easy. (After testing out several consistencies of joint compound and texturing tools including rollers, splatter and three different types of sponges, I’ve mastered the “close enough” technique.)
Wallpaper Removal

Instead of using sentences in bullet points to explain how this scope creep happened, I can utilize the visual Cause Mapping® method of root cause analysis. Starting with the schedule goal, I can begin to ask and document why there was a delay completing the project. This allows me to include multiple perspectives. A 4-Why Cause Map™ diagram may look like one of the following:

4-Why Texture

4-Why Layered Wallpaper

But the scope creep didn’t stop there. As I was tearing up the wallpaper, I noticed how old and stained the carpet is (the laundry room acts as the mudroom and dog feeding area too). So, that had to go. I’m still debating if the linoleum (under the carpet) has to go. And the baseboard. Oh, and I had to pick out new flooring (not easy for an indecisive person like me).


I also decided that the faux wood cabinets needed a makeover. According to the internet and several paint store consultations, it may be difficult to effectively paint. So, many hours of research landed me on contact paper. I did them once, but they need to be redone. Although the videos online show one person applying the paper – that is not recommended by yours truly.


I also decided to remove the dated vanity and toilet. I’m still waiting to pick out the new ones, but I’m not in a rush since the flooring will need to be done first. And on and on the project grows…

Understanding the Fundamental Relationship

I’m not alone in experiencing scope creep. I’ve facilitated countless incidents that involve scope creep. It usually become evident through a startup delay following a turnaround or maintenance activity or perhaps a late and/or over budget capital project. As part of these investigations, we evaluate what the plan for the project was versus what we experienced. The Cause Map diagram will outline why the project was planned a certain way (what assumptions were made, the resources involved, the information available at the time, etc.). The investigation will also detail why the project didn’t go as planned. The same is true for any scheduling or budget issue. We’re evaluating how the original schedule or budget was created AND why the deviation occurred. See the generic cause-and-effect fundamental relationship for deviation as well as the updated wording more specific to my scope creep scenario.

Deviation - Fund Relationship


Scope Creep - Fund Relationship

If we apply the above fundamental relationship to my specific experience, we can combine the perspectives captured above and expand them to a more detailed Cause Map diagram like the PDF below:

Laundry Room Scope Creep Cause Map Diagram

We’ve all experienced the phenomenon of an easy job becoming an unwieldy and difficult one. By asking Why questions and understanding the deviation from the standard fundamental relationship, we can better understand why this happens to mitigate the risk of it happening again in the future—whether it’s in your laundry room or at work.

Register for our upcoming Cause Mapping Root Cause Analysis Online Public Workshop

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