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The Triple Constraint

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


We are working through a series of blogs, looking at some of the essential models that a project manager will need. We have covered:

  • The Project Lifecycle
  • The Triple Constraint (here) – and in future blogs we will look at:
  • Stakeholder Management
  • The Critical Path
  • The Gantt Chart
  • Risk Management

Defining a Project

We define a project in terms of its purpose, goal, objectives and scope.

  • Purpose: why we need it
  • Goal: what it needs to achieve
  • Objectives: the constraints we must meet
  • Scope: The breadth and depth of the work to be done

Objectives come in Three Flavours

Objectives set constraints we must meet: time, cost and quality parameters that define our priorities. Once all of these are fixed, we can think of them as occupying three corners of a rigid triangle: the time-cost-quality triangle.

The Triple Constraint - The Time-Cost-Quality Triangle - The Iron Triangle - The Triangle of Balance

This is also known by other names, the most useful of which is the Triple Constraint. Because once you have a plan, any attempt to change one corner…

  • to reduce the cost
  • to speed up delivery
  • to improve performance

… will only be possible if you are prepared to compromise one or both of the other two corners.

The important thing about the Triple Constraint is that it never tells you what to do – your primary and secondary time, cost or quality objectives must be your guides. But it will always show you clearly what your choices are.

An example…

You want your IT system to produce management data more quickly than it is specified to? Well that is okay. It can, as long as you are prepared to either:

  • Compromise on budget, spending more on the system and on the people and systems that feed it with data  –  or
  • Compromise on performance and accept either a reduced data set focused on the most important figures, or reduced data quality, giving first estimates only, based on the most material information, but awaiting the precision of the full information.

This is just an illustration, but it shows clearly how the Triple Constraint offers us options.

Further Reading

From the Management Pocketbooks series:

  1. Project Management Pocketbook
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Project Lifecycle

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course. This is our last blog before Christmas so may we wish everyone a happy and safe holiday and we’ll be back in 2022.


Implementing business strategy usually means starting one or more projects. Whilst nothing would please me more (as a former professional project manager) than to devote a series of blogs to a thorough description of project management, that is not the role of these blogs and also, The Project Management Pocketbook already covers that ground.

So I shall limit myself, in the next few blogs, to some of the essential models that a project manager will need. We will cover:

  • The Project Lifecycle (here), and in future weeks
  • The Triple Constraint
  • Stakeholder Management
  • The Critical Path
  • The Gantt Chart
  • Risk Management

 

Four Stage Project

There are as many ways of representing the lifecycle of a project as project managers, but they all contain many of the same features, just different language for the stages, different choices of how detailed to be, and different graphical metaphors for how to draw it.

Here, we will use the version in the Project Management Pocketbook.

Project Lifecycle

Scoping

Define the purpose, aim, objectives and scope of the project to evaluate whether it makes good business sense and is therefore worth proceeding to the planning stage. Good business sense here means consistency with your organisation’s mission, vision and values, and a reasonable expectation that the benefits will exceed the costs.

Planning

Put together a detailed specification for what your project will produce and then use this as the basis to plan what you need to do, in what order, at what time, with what resources and allocating work to which people. Calculate the cost of your plan to create a budget and compare that with the benefits you will get if your project delivers to its specification and you can create a business case. You business case will guide your decision whether to invest in implementing your project.

Implementing

Now deliver your project, constantly monitoring for risks, changes, delays, overspends and the quality of your delivered products. Intervene where necessary to maintain control. At the end of the implementing stage, you can hand over the last of the things you have created to your customer, boss or client. Will they accept them? Only if they are fit for purpose.

Evaluating

How did it go? What did you learn? How did team members perform? Was it all worthwhile? Take this new knowledge into your next project and do that one even better.

Further Reading

From the Management Pocketbooks series:

  1. Project Management Pocketbook
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Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Mnimum Viable Product - MVP

Mnimum Viable Product - MVPYou’re an Entrepreneur. Or you’re a Product Manager charged with launching a new product. But how can you know if your new product or service idea is a good one? How can you minimise the risk of an expensive flop? The answer is to build a Minimum Viable Product – an MVP.

Like some of the best of our Big Ideas, a Minimum Viable Product is exactly what its name suggests. It is the minimum product you could create that is viable in terms of serving its primary purpose. So, let’s put some detail on that minimum viable explanation.

Continue reading Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

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Business Case: Investment Appraisal and More

Business Case

Business CaseA Business Case is a valuable tool. It’s the corporate world’s equivalent of the scales of justice. Like a mini adversarial system wrapped up as a document of record.

As a project manager, business cases are like mother’s milk to me. But they won’t be for everyone. So before I introduce yet another gratuitously clichéd metaphor, let’s explain what a business case is, and why you need it.
Continue reading Business Case: Investment Appraisal and More

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Triple Constraint: Time, Cost, and Quality

Triple Constraint - Time Cost Quality

Triple Constraint - Time Cost QualityTime, cost, or quality. Choose one. They are the corners of the triple constraint. And this is the most basic, most important idea within Project Management.

Project Management itself is a Big Idea that we have already covered. But when you are leading a project, the triple constraint is your guiding compass. It gives you the bearing for every decision you need to make.

Continue reading Triple Constraint: Time, Cost, and Quality

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The Cone of Uncertainty

The Cone of Uncertainty

The Cone of UncertaintyThe Cone of Uncertainty is a concept from the world of Project Management. But, as an idea, it is so compellingly simple and so widely applicable, that it deserves a place of its own in our Big Ideas series.

So, in this article, we’ll take a look at what the cone of uncertainty is, and how it makes a helpful mental model in many contexts.

Continue reading The Cone of Uncertainty

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Agile Project Management

Agile Project Management

Agile Project ManagementHow do you adapt traditional project management into a rapidly changing environment? One that is characterised by shifting priorities and high uncertainty. Arguably, you don’t need to – project management has always had the tools for this. But, with the Agile Manifesto of 2001, software projects have a new paradigm. A modification of traditional approaches, called Agile Project Management.

And make no mistake… Agile has become a ‘Big Thing’. In fact, it bears some of the hallmarks of a fad, while also having a lot to offer an informed organisation with wise and pragmatic project leaders to call upon. But, as with all good ideas, it also attracts its converts and zealots.

Of course, here at Management Pocketbooks, we tend to eschew extreme and simplistic ‘right versus wrong’ arguments in management. We’re here to suck out the good stuff and brief you on what it is and how to benefit from it.

Continue reading Agile Project Management

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Project Management

Project Management

Project ManagementWhen you want to create something big, new, and complex, how do you keep all your tasks, time, and resources under control? The answer is Project Management.

We’ll never have the documentary evidence to prove it, but my assertion is that the discipline of Project Management goes back thousands of years. But even today, practice is evolving. In a world that is changing faster than ever, Project Management is a profession and a toolset that is becoming ever more valuable.

Continue reading Project Management

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PRINCE2

PRINCE2
PRINCE2
PRINCE2

Project Management is an important skill, not just for professional project managers. Increasingly, managers of all sorts are called on to manage projects. And one big idea in project management is PRINCE2.

PRINCE2 was developed in the UK, for public sector projects. But there, some non-Governmental organisations have adopted it. Some have done so because they work with the public sector. Others because it offers a valuable framework for accountable projects.

The same reasons account for the uptake of PRINCE2 outside the UK. It is at its most popular in:

  • northern Europe (Germany, Netherlands, Belgium) and
  • the English-speaking world (Australia, South Africa and the United States)

Continue reading PRINCE2

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The Black Swan Effect

The Black Swan Effect
The Black Swan Effect
The Black Swan Effect

Black Swan is a movie that follows the story of a ballerina in a New York ballet company. Her life is consumed with dance.

Oops. Wrong Black Swan.

The Black Swan is a book that sets out the nature and impact of rare, improbable events. The author, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, coined the metaphor of Black Swan to describe them.

Continue reading The Black Swan Effect

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