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Going in circles? Think triangles Padawan!

Posted on Wed 26 August 2015
Written by Keith Turkington MD of Fluent Technology, grant management guru, process engineer, frequent flyer, father of 3, ufology geek and keen cook.

I have managed small projects, large projects and some very, very large projects.  Some projects have lasted weeks, others have stretched into years.  Some have been really complex, others have seemed straightforward.  No matter the size or shape of the project I have at times found myself going round in circles wondering how I ever ended up in the middle of this!  When problems arise (and even when they don’t!) I try to take a breath and remind myself of something I first encountered over 2 decades ago – the project management triangle (sometimes known as the triple constraint).

The project management triangle (illustrated below) reminds us that while quality is at the centre of the project there will be natural constraints on the scope, time and cost of any project.  Put simply if we have limits on the one side of the triangle it will have an impact on the other sides.  If we have limits on 2 sides then we will have great pressure on the remaining side and if we have serious limits on all three then we are screwed!

Project Management Triangle

Every project should meet the end customers’ quality objectives and needs to be delivered on time, to budget and to the agreed scope (no more, no less).  I’m sure this all makes sense but as with any plan there will be factors that change and shape how the project progresses.  If we set unrealistic expectations with respect to any of the 3 sides in the triangle then we are going to have to make compromises with one or both of the other two.  It’s a very useful thing to bear in mind but often forgotten in the heat of project battles.  Need your solution next week?  Be prepared to decrease the scope of the project or pay for more resource to work on it!  Need to increase the scope?  Be prepared to take longer or pay more!  Reduced budget?  Think more time and less scope.  The 3 natural constraints on any project need to live in harmony.  To quote the great Obi-Wan Kenobi we must “bring balance to the project, not leave it in darkness”.  Ok, he might have been speaking about the force but I think the principle applies to projects too..

So in short if you want to stop going round in circles on your project, remember the triangle!

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