Beyond the triple constraints

While there is much that has been written about triple constraints, little research has been conducted to determine trends associated with other constraints. Other constraints that affect project management include;

Project efficiency: As noted, the triple constraints are helpful, but it is important to recognize that they are not, individually nor collectively, the measures of a successful project. There are, however, tools for project managers to more efficiently manage

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project work. As noted in the PMBOK®Guide (PMI, 2008), they are three among many tools for this type work. The PMBOK® Guide notes the need to balance the following project constraints: scope, quality, schedule, budget, resources, and risk (p. 6). Moreover, it is noted that balancing constraints is not limited to these alone, but rather these should be integrated along with critical constraints and success measures of the organization and project stakeholders.

Program efficiency: Many projects that are initiated today are part of a larger program. The importance of the project efficiency is heightened when part of a program. Program success is measured with different metrics as compared to project success. To be sure, for programs to be successful, the projects of the program must be successful, but the measurement data, reporting, and decision-making is different. In a simplistic form, projects are much more tactical and aligned with a business function whereas the program success is determined at a more organizational strategy level and organizational level goals.

Portfolio efficiency: Because all organizations have capacity limitations when it comes to money, talent, time, and other resources, working on the right projects at the right time with the right resources is paramount. As such, there are portfolio concerns and measures that must be used to determine “success.”

Organizational business results: This finding is akin to what Cohen (2001) noted in his PMI Symposium “Beyond the triple constraints: Developing a business venture approach to project management.” According to him, the triple constraints must be augmented to include a project’s overall contribution to organizational value to determine success.

Teamwork: Project teams are often developed and disbanded based on the project. Part of “success” determination today is how well the team functions. Those that deliver their product and in doing so develop a stronger bond of working with one another, wanting to work with one another, and working toward high performance are successful. Anything to the contrary risks not only the project’s success, but importantly the future success of projects and the organization. Team building, and teamwork cannot be underestimated.

Individual development: As noted in teamwork, developing high performance is a requisite success factor among organizational and project personnel. Similarly, individual development is also a success factor today. Many project team members today find themselves working initiatives that are unique and in which current conditions have not been experienced to date. Such conditions cause the constant need for learning and development. As such, individual development is a success factor on projects today. This development creates the need to foster mentorships (often across projects) and to have personal development goals understood by the project team so as to support one another with individual tasks, team tasks, and organizational deliverables in a way that learning becomes acculturated by project and organizational personnel.

PMO development: Successful projects contribute intellectual capital to the organization’s PMO. This capital can be in the form of lessons learned, tools, templates, training, and other codified value that helps serve to expedite future projects and shorten learning curves for new employees and veteran employees working new initiatives. This success determinant is grounded in the need not only to learn (at an individual and team level), but importantly, to share that learning for the success of others.

Performance management system for increased readiness: The need for learning is rooted in the idea of readiness. Project teams and organizations at large must work toward flexibility and plasticity when it comes to addressing pressures to change. A critical component in doing so is being opening to measuring performance. Thus, each project should be testing and updating (or validating) a performance management system that aligns project work to programs to portfolios to business results and include individual, team, and PMO level development activities. Constantly measuring actual performance against a target goal and benchmark will help highlight areas of strengths and weaknesses from which better decisions can be made at an individual, team, and organizational level. Moreover, the use of such systems helps to spotlight and expedite periods of change.

Systems thinking: The prior success determinates allude to the need for systems thinking. Net benefits need to be understood—that is, net benefits of customers and other key stakeholders all the way back to the project manager responsible for the project.

Take charge.

Read more on project management:

Lessons Learned

Project Risk Management


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