The Project Management Triangle

The Project Management Triangle graphically highlights three competing constraints all projects face. Time, quality and cost.

Projects are performed and delivered under these rival forces. The conundrum: changing one affects the others. You can only benefit in two areas at the expense of the third.

The Project Management Triangle

So how does this effect you and your business?

Choose 2: Time, Quality, Cost

When taking on any project you are presented with three options. You can either have:

  1. Faster Turnaround -> Higher Quality Solution -> More Expense
  2. Faster Turnaround -> Less Expense -> Lower Quality Solution
  3. Higher Quality Solution -> Less Expense -> Slower Turnaround

I’m sure you can agree that you and your business face this conundrum daily. With every project there is a trade-off in either execution, turnaround time or expense. You can only ever have two of the three.

To put this into context, let’s take a look at content generation. This is because all facets of projects focus on content generation in one way or another. Specifically, I’m going to look at article writing.

An Example: Content Creation

For one person to create a good 1000-word article it might take a whole day (~8 hours). That’s accounting for research, creating visuals, editing and succinctly getting everything together.

What if you had two people doing this, splitting the workload evenly? One person handling the content writing whilst the other was complementing the written work with further research and visuals.

If two people of equal pay, skill and experience wrote the article it would be completed in three quarters of the time. It would NOT take half the time, even though twice as many people are working on the project.

Coordination Takes Time

Team members communicating together adds time. Efforts must be coordinated. Decisions have to be made on the appropriate approach required – who does what and how.

Resources needed for team management increase with the team’s size.

Social Loafers

People also tend to exert less effort to achieve a goal when they work in a group than when they work alone. Generally, members become less productive as their team size increases.

This phenomenon is known as ‘social loafing’.  Different to the coordination problems outlined above, social loafing stems from individuals feeling their effort matters less in a group.

Time is Money

Time is money because your workers are getting paid on an hourly rate. What might have taken one person 8 hours, takes two people 12 hours combined (6 hours each). You will have more expense.

In this example you have faster turnaround to get the same higher quality solution. The job will be delivered 25% faster overall – in 6 hours instead of 8. BUT, the article will take 4 more paid hours from your two employees combined (50% increase in overall cost).

Fast + Cheap = Lesser Quality

What if you wanted your article fast and cheap? Content producer(s) will be rushed. The output of their effort: a poorly written and researched, unpolished article.

Wrapping Up the Project Management Triangle

Time, quality and cost are three competing constraints all projects face. You can only ever benefit in two, at the expense of the third.

Individuals are limited in their output (hours they can work). But, teams present problems too. Good project management plans accordingly to best meet task constraints. This shapes the scope of your project.

Recognise what you are trying to achieve and need the most. Equally, recognise limitations that effect you achieving your subsequent goal. Greed, in the end, fails even the greedy.

So what will it be? Time, cost, quality – choose two.

And hey, two out of three ain’t bad.