If you are familiar with project management, then you have probably heard of the Triple Constraint. That heavy triangle composed of time, scope and cost, which projects are forced to live under.
The initial purpose of this concept was to form a virtual framework for project managers to balance and evaluate competing demands. A guide to help them create quality software without sacrificing time and budget, to be efficient without sacrificing quality and cost, and ultimately, to help them stay within budget while achieving success.
Unfortunately, as economic tides start to shift, more and more companies choose to focus on only one area of the triangle – cost. But the Triple Constraint is a balanced triangle, and we cannot adjust one side of it without it altering the other sides.
When success begins to be measured by a company’s ability to control budget, the balance of the Triple Constraint goes out of the window. Scope is reduced, quality is cut, and the schedule of the project is deferred until cheaper resources can be allocated. This measurement of success does not take into account that quality and delivery are being lowered to unacceptable levels.
Understanding the Importance of Balance
The leadership team must be fully aware of the fact that time, scope and cost are completely inter-related, and that any adjustments of those items will affect the other. This is a belief and understanding that must be passed down to the rest of the organization. Many times senior management is aloof about accepting a budget reduction without actually taking the time to determine what the consequences of that change will be. Not only will this type of behaviour lead to major issues down the road, but it will also create a budget-driven culture within your organization.
The entire project team will begin to focus on reducing costs as appose to creating good quality projects for your clients. When producing high quality work is valued less than keeping costs down, the motivation and pride of your team will go down the drain as well.
Monitoring and Conveying the Triple Constraint
Along with understating the importance for balance in the Triple Constraint, it is also crucial for management to convey that information to stakeholders. This ensures that everyone involved in a project recognizes the impact of sacrificing costs. In many cases, stakeholders may be responsible for cost reductions. Creating awareness in the beginning will make communication easier in follow-up meetings.
When management fails to convey good project management practices, the quality of their team’s work decreases. Focusing only on cost can lead to an inferior work culture with a disregard to quality and deadlines.
In order to achieve true success, it is crucial for a team to stay on top of all the key attributes found in the triple constraint. At the very least, management must be fully aware of any fluctuations to these attributes, whether it is cost, time, or scope.
There is no magical formula to calculate success. At the end of the day, it is always a prediction or assumption that remains to be validated when your product launches. Therefore, we can never be sure.
However, measuring project success based on cost or other constraints alone leads to a one-dimensional team culture. There may be times when it may make sense to focus more on a single constraint. For example, time sensitive products that need to reach the market in a certain time. In situations like these, breaking the balance makes sense. But when this becomes a long-term effect, such as organizations that become cost-centred, then it becomes a huge internal problem for the entire team.