Project Management

The Triple Constraint, 2022 Style

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.

When I first started learning about project management, the triple constraint—time, scope and budget—was at the heart of everything. We were taught that meeting the triple constraint represented success, and we learned that if one of the arms of the triangle moved, then at least one other had to be adjusted to accommodate it.

The world has moved on, and there is now recognition that there is a lot more to project success than those three things. But the triple constraint is still important, and when I see it being discussed in various communities, I find that too often the advice being given is outdated—and sometimes flat out wrong.

I want to try and address some of those issues here, with a specific focus on new PMs who have to learn this stuff—but also as a reminder to the rest of us.

It's no longer the “pick-two triangle”
When I learned it, the triple constraint was often referred to as the “pick-two triangle.” The suggestion was that if you fixed, say, the scope and he schedule, then you had to be flexible with the budget (generally people). Or if you only had a fixed number of people and an inflexible schedule, then you had to be prepared to compromise on the scope. You could pick two of the constraints but then had to be flexible on the third.

That was always overly simplistic, but with the recognition today…

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"Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater."

- Albert Einstein