Project Management

Don’t Replace the Triple Constraint!

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at [email protected]. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

I doubt many project managers will be surprised that the recently published report Measuring What Matters from PMI in combination with PwC advocates for outcome-based metrics as an indicator of project success—that’s a trend that has been happening for some time now. But where I think there may be a little more surprise is when we look at the report’s findings about the more traditional way of measuring projects.

Whether you call it the triple constraint, the iron triangle, the “pick-two” triangle or some other name, every PM knows about delivering on time, on scope and on budget. And most will recognize that those three constraints need to be supplemented with quality, and often risk. When I first started managing projects, the triple constraint was all that mattered—hit all three and I was successful, miss one and I wouldn’t be viewed as being quite so successful. (Miss more than one on a consistent basis, and I wouldn’t have been a PM for very long.)

The problem of course was that those constraints were often arbitrary; they didn’t necessarily reflect what could reasonably be achieved, and they were slow to move when changes happened. Yet that was still how project success was determined, because they were seen as the best metrics available.

I know many organizations that still rely on them because they find it …

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