Project Success & the Metaphorical Triangle

Project Success & the Metaphorical Triangle

By Steven G. Lauck & Jon M. Quigley, MS PMP CTFL

Project Success – Project Success – Project Success! That is the hope of any organization when hiring and assigning the correct project manager to each project. For me, Project Success has always come down to fulfillment of Scope, Time, Cost, and Quality.

Project Managers must understand that there is a give & take or push/pull on the constraints in the shape of a triangle. Once the project is in motion any force pressed on the metaphorical triangle influences the sides and internal shape of the triangle.

For example, an accelerated schedule. The acceleration will require additional resources – costs, time, and resources. Or consider when a stakeholder or sponsor submits a change request. The resources to analyze the change request are resources that are likely taken away from executing the already agreed upon project work. Initiating the change management process adds cost, scope, & time to the project. This is just for analysis of the impact by the change on the project objective and project constraints. If the change request is approved the triangle is re-balanced. If the change request is not approved, the constraints are already altered due to this exploratory work and the project manager needs to resolve to re-balance. One way to reduce the impact of change request analysis is to charge for analyzing the change request.

The chance for achieving project success is increased if the project manager takes an approach of basing decisions on keeping or re-balancing the triangle during execution of the project.

Risk is the other area to watch while focusing on project success. Risk is an area that needs deep and thorough investigation at the beginning of a project, especially when it comes to exploring the project strategic approach. ‘What can happen to impact this project?’ An impact can be negative or positive. BUT, during execution Risk will impact the constraints. From the project kickoff the constraints should be front and center.  Besides this deep exploration at the beginning of the project, a constant monitoring is required to see if some of those risks are coming to fruition as well as if there are things that can go awry that were previously not identified.

When developing the Risk Log and mitigation strategies the constraints need to be in focus. For example, high level Risk – one with a high probability and high severity of impact will impact the constraints. But assigning a contingency budget and schedule adjustment to it will result in re-balancing the constraints.

Project teams don’t always include Positive Risks or Opportunities and that is a miss. And yes, positive risks occurring will require re-balancing. Taking advantage of opportunities can also add to the project success. For example, an opportunity to split production between two lines or shops will potentially accelerate completion given the approved scope, that the costs are within budgeted amounts and quality is matched – reviewing the constraints. The overall result is the project is delivered early, on budget, matches scope, and meets quality.

Project success is a combination of planning and promptly adjusting to what is found during the execution of the project.  Project success is typically defined as the meeting the objectives (scope) of the project within the cost and schedule expectations.  As a project manager, it is important to manage the expectations of the sponsors and stakeholders, as well as ensuring any changes to the project are managed. That does not mean arbitrary saying “no” to a customer change.  Neither should we quickly say “yes” to changes in the misguided belief that we are responding to the clients needs.  These changes may have impacts on cost and timing, and in fact, the effort to explore the consequences of the change will cost some time and effort that should be accounted.  There is much more to project success than you may think.  It requires a combination of adapting and control.  Pay attention to how the project as a system works, and you will do fine.

Check out our books on project management and our project management discussion board for more information and to ask questions and post thoughts on project management.



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