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Topics: Agile, Earned Value Management, Scope Management
Is the Iron Triangle still the only success criteria?
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Doubts often arise about what and who determine project success. The purpose of this topic is to discuss the issues from different viewpoints of people looking at the project. Lim, C. S., & Mohamed, M. Z. (199) discussed the difference between factor and criterion. Factors are the set of circumstances, facts, or influences which contribute to the result; whereas criteria are the set of principles or standards by which judgment is made (Lim, C. S., & Mohamed, M. Z., 1999).

Scope, time, cost (The Iron Triangle) and quality, over the last 50 years have become indistinguishable connected with measuring the success of project management. Throughout the 50 years, the description of project management included those criteria and not surprising. The scope is what the initiating organizations define, but time and costs are at best, only guesses, initially calculated with incomplete information about the project.

Quality is a singularity; it is a developing property of people’s different attitudes and beliefs, which often changes as the project’s life-cycle continues. Is project management so reluctant to adopt other criteria to assess project’s progress? Are there another criterion outside the Iron Triangle, such as stakeholder benefits? (Atkinson, 1999).

Projects, however, continue to be designated as failing, despite the management. Why should this be if both the factors and the criteria for success are believed to be known? One argument could be that project management seems keen to adopt new elements to reach success, such as methodologies, tools, knowledge, and skills, but continues to measure or judge project management using tried and failed criteria (Atkinson, 1999). If the standards were the cause of reported failure, continuing to use those same rules will only repeat the failures of the past.

Kiznyte, J., Welker, M., & Dechange, A. (2016) exhibits that the Blendlee case derives the largest part of the combined methods of project management from PMBoK. According to the project cycle approach of that methodology, the project sponsors divided the start-up creation into four stages: the business plan, the company establishment, the platform development and the business sustainability. This method helped to create an overall business management strategy and to structure the business creation processes using the project process groups (Kiznyte, J., Welker, M., & Dechange, A., 2016).

After 50 years it appears that the definitions for project management remain to include an established criteria to measure success, namely the Iron Triangle, scope, cost, and time with quality. These criteria, it is suggested, are no more than two best guesses and a phenomenon (Atkinson, 1999). A determinate time resource is possibly the feature which discriminates project management from most other types of control.

However, to focus the success criteria solely upon the delivery criteria to the segregation of others, it is suggested, may have produced an inaccurate picture of so called failed project management. Atkinson’s (1999) argument demonstrates that two Types of errors can exist within project management.

Type I error is team members incorrectly completes tasks or steps, while a Type II error is when team members do not accomplish tasks as well as it could have been, or missed something. The significant point to be made is that project management may be committing a Type II error and that error is the reluctance to include additional success criteria (Atkinson, 1999).

Baumann, E., Krokos, K. J., & Hendrickson, C. (2014); Kiznyte, J., Welker, M., & Dechange, A. (2016), Atkinson, R. (1999), and Lim, C. S., & Mohamed, M. Z. (1999) support the argument as the literature indicates. Researchers identify other success criteria, but to date, the Iron Triangle seems to continue to be the preferred success criteria.

References

Atkinson, R. (1999). Project management: cost, time and quality, two best guesses and a phenomenon, its time to accept other success criteria. International journal of project management, 17(6), 337-342.

Baumann, E., Krokos, K. J., & Hendrickson, C. (2014). Building Algorithms to Estimate Training Resource Requirements. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. 58 (1), pp. 2335-2339. SAGE Publications.

Kiznyte, J., Welker, M., & Dechange, A. (2016). Applying Project Management Methods to the Creation of a Start-up Business Plan: The Case of Blendlee. PM World Journal, V(V), 1-24.

Lim, C. S., & Mohamed, M. Z. (1999). Criteria of project success: an exploratory re-examination. International journal of project management, 17(4), 243-248.
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Nice write-up, John.

Although the classic "triple constraints" can't be broken, I've found that there's often one side of that triangle that's more important than the other. That's why it's so important to define success criteria up front. When that triangle (or hexagon, or whatever shape you're using) is pulled in different directions, which side is most important? Or is there something even more important that defines project success?

It's also interesting to note the erosion of the iron triangle in certain fast-paced and competitive environments. With certain tech products, for example, the budget may be nebulous, and the scope and schedule might not be defined at all. It's simply important to have the right product features ready for the right customers before the competition. This isn't to say that the triple constraints no longer exist, only that they can't be managed in the same way.

Interesting topic.
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1 reply by John Rice
Mar 25, 2017 7:54 AM
John Rice
...
Wade
Good point and what I am hearing from you is setting expectations and defining customer satisfaction is critical initial point
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Type I and II belongs to quality.
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1 reply by John Rice
Mar 25, 2017 7:56 AM
John Rice
...
Sergio
Good catch and quality enhances customer satisfaction and places necessary limits within the success criteria
Network:1667



Is this a discussion? Lot of thoughts here...
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1 reply by John Rice
Mar 25, 2017 7:58 AM
John Rice
...
Naomi
Yes it is a discussion to uncover best practices since agile project management is redefining how we validate the project's success
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I think iron triangle might be enough for the success criteria since the concept of scope might include the concept of quality which can also be considered to, in general, deal with stakeholder satisfactions and other potential factors.

IMHO, many project fails regardless of what standards, tools or methodologies they used, are using or will use because the project should deal with uncertainty of future. Luck plays a big role in the success of project. Of course, without effort on proper project management approaches, chance might not even come.
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1 reply by John Rice
Mar 25, 2017 8:01 AM
John Rice
...
Sungjoon,
what I hear is risk management processes is still valid in ensuring success
Network:291



I don't think the Iron Triangle can be the sole criteria for project success anymore. I think success can be attributed to maintaining it as best as possible, but, again, not the sole reason for success.
Look at agile projects-the entire premise of agile is to embrace change and accept failure. Is that project successful if those two things were to happen? Yes. Maybe. Depends.

I remember when I was studying for the CAPM, there was a heavy emphasis on stakeholder management. The idea behind that was if you were to have successful stakeholder management, you'd have a greater chance of project success.
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2 replies by Ed Tsyitee Jr and John Rice
Mar 25, 2017 8:04 AM
John Rice
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Ed,
It is the interaction between PM processes is iteration and evolving depending on the very nature if the project.
How do you define the success of the projects
Mar 27, 2017 3:49 PM
Ed Tsyitee Jr
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How do I define the success of the project?
Is it what the client asked for? Did the project relatively stay with in budget and schedule?
For internal projects-does it further the business' strategy?

I'm sure there are other criteria, but for me that would be the base.
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Money matters most .... How much Project makes money or much profitable at the end ?

1. Need to have right scope which makes money
2. Need to complete on time to make good/save money
3. Need to have good quality for competitive advantage/customer satisfaction which results in profit/more business
4. Stakeholder management which makes chances Project success which results in profit/money

Whatever may be the measure end goal is profit/money for corporate (expect social/volunteer service/projects)
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I need to make a distinction between project success and product success as part of my response, and I should apologize in advance for going a little off topic.

Project and product success are often conflated and, while there is some justification for it, the success or failure of one does not guarantee the success or failure of the other. The project is about delivering a product (or service). The product is intended to deliver value. One could argue that the purpose of the project is to deliver value, but if that is true, why do many companies stop measuring the success of a "project" as soon as the "product" is delivered?

You don't use the iron triangle to measure product success. There's a part of me that wants to argue that you do not use it to measure project success, either, at least not in the same way as you use it during the project.

The iron triangle really only seems to be iron during the project, not after. It's used to identify constraints, not just for measurement criteria. "Here are three variables; you can define two of them."

When the product is delivered, people usually care about one or more of the aspects of the iron triangle, but the constraints binding which you can use are removed.

* Did you deliver either what the customer requested, or what the customer wanted? (don't get me started...)
* Did you deliver on time?
* Did you deliver within budget?

Immediately after a product is delivered and a project is closed is usually too early to measure product success.

I've seen projects declared a success even though they were not on time or within budget. In my experience, projects are more often called a failure for delivering what the customer requested, but not what the customer actually wanted.

Jim Highsmith wrote an article about the Agile Triangle, advocating the combination of project and product success measures (although not in those exact words) and discussing how the iron triangle is just one point, representing constraints, with the other points on the triangle being quality and value.

http://jimhighsmith.com/beyond-scope-sched...agile-triangle/

I am not opposed to combining project and product success into one set of measures. What I recently found on a large project where we attempted to do this, however, was that by the time we were able to celebrate success (almost 5 months after delivering the product), a lot of the excitement was lost. It's significantly more motivational to your teams to have some sort of celebration as soon as you deliver. Months of blood, sweat, tears, and profanity have gone into delivering the product, then you deliver, then nothing, for months. Waiting to celebrate until you achieve product success can be a morale breaker.
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1 reply by John Rice
Mar 25, 2017 8:14 AM
John Rice
...
Aaron,
Thank you for some more clarification and I like your statement, "Project and product success are often conflated and, while there is some justification for it, the success or failure of one does not guarantee the success or failure of the other."
Therefore, a product project will have two success criteria; one for the effectiveness of the methodology and one for the product.
Network:921



Mar 23, 2017 2:13 PM
Replying to Wade Harshman
...
Nice write-up, John.

Although the classic "triple constraints" can't be broken, I've found that there's often one side of that triangle that's more important than the other. That's why it's so important to define success criteria up front. When that triangle (or hexagon, or whatever shape you're using) is pulled in different directions, which side is most important? Or is there something even more important that defines project success?

It's also interesting to note the erosion of the iron triangle in certain fast-paced and competitive environments. With certain tech products, for example, the budget may be nebulous, and the scope and schedule might not be defined at all. It's simply important to have the right product features ready for the right customers before the competition. This isn't to say that the triple constraints no longer exist, only that they can't be managed in the same way.

Interesting topic.
Wade
Good point and what I am hearing from you is setting expectations and defining customer satisfaction is critical initial point
Network:921



Mar 23, 2017 5:15 PM
Replying to Sergio Luis Conte
...
Type I and II belongs to quality.
Sergio
Good catch and quality enhances customer satisfaction and places necessary limits within the success criteria
Network:921



Mar 23, 2017 8:20 PM
Replying to Naomi Caietti
...
Is this a discussion? Lot of thoughts here...
Naomi
Yes it is a discussion to uncover best practices since agile project management is redefining how we validate the project's success
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