Beyond the Triple Constraint

I comment this week about the extra elements which complement the Triple Constraint: Risk, Quality, and Resources. One of the reasons while it is often said that the Triple Constraint is not really triple. 


In my last post I commented about the Triple Constraint of Scope, Time and Cost, which is one of the basic building blocks of Project Management: how to align and make sound decisions around (highly) competing demands. Whereas there is general consensus that other critical factors also compete against these three; there is not always agreement on which ones are those elements. This week I will elaborate around some of them: Risk, Quality and Resources. Some authors like Rita Mulcahy use for example Customer Satisfaction instead of Resources. Others may use other factors.

Risk – from the Arabic term “rizq” which means “what the providence brings”, risk management is one of the most challenging demands in a project, always impacting at least one or more of the other components of the triple constraint. Whereas most of the time it is associated with events that can make the things go wrong, it can also refer to events that can make things go well. In summary is like having your radar on at all times, trying to catch as early as possible what could go wrong and try to make something about it; and  also catch what could make things go well, and try to make that happen. It often requires a pragmatic mindset depending on the context of the project. 

Quality – another concept which is not very easily achieved, it deals with how well specific requirements, standards, parameters or guidelines are met. In the most desirable scenario, quality is preferred to be built in, than to be inspected in. In plain terms it tells that if you are doing something, it is worth it to do it right from the beginning; instead of waiting until the end to check how good is it, and find that you need to fix lots of things or do it all over again. It requires clarity, discipline, but also a realistic approach. 

Resources – this is what you have available to complete the project (people and resources). Depending on these elements the other components of the Constraint will be likely impacted. It is not the same to tackle a project with a junior team than with a team of seasoned colleagues. The availability of specific resources or their characteristics would likely affect the outcomes of your project. 

At the end of the day the Triple Constraint is a conceptual model to help us understand the nature of the project, its purpose and the several elements that need to be aligned, balanced and prioritized to get it right. 

No matter the specific framework that you choose to approach your work, it should be systematic, consistent, and disciplined; otherwise you may find yourself lost instead of finding yourself managing the project.

Have a rewarding week!
- Sergio Calvo

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