Adding another dimension to the project management triangle

By Mapto – Own work, Public Domain,

The project management triangle is a well-known model showing that the quality of the delivery is constrained by the budget, the deadlines, and the scope. The idea is that it is possible to trade between constraints: ask for an earlier delivery with a smaller scope, for example. And If you don’t trade, then the quality of the delivery will suffer.

During a discussion with a team, one of the team members brought that the way they were working was damaging the quality of the product and its long term maintainability. His point was that the fixed set of features (scope), associated with a 3-months deadline for the release, without changing the team, was blocking all the constraints, so the only thing that could vary was the quality.

I have to admit that I was totally in agreement, and while he was talking, I draw the well-known triangle on the whiteboard of the meeting room.

Another team member surprised us by stating calmly: “I always disagreed with that triangle. There is another variable that is not taken into account.”

He got all our attention, and finish his sentence: “The other variable is the effort that you are willing to put into the project.” Two other team members approved immediately in support of that claim. The other team members said nothing and did not move, probably waiting to see where that discussion would go.

After a quick glimpse at the only person in the room who seemed to disagree with that claim, I tried to explain that you could envision that the people could work longer hours, increasing the capacity of the team artificially without changing the cost, but that it will not be sustainable and there was an invisible cost to that burst. A debt that the team will have to pay later. Furthermore, after several days of working long hours, I was pretty sure that the quality would suffer anyway.

I tried to argue that pushing your “best” individuals to deliver could get short term results, but will also damage the ability of the people to collaborate, to support and help each other, to onboard new people in the team, and so on.

They continued to disagree explaining that some people were able to work for a longer time, with a strong focus on their work without damaging the quality of their delivery. This was the “effort” they wanted to celebrate and incentivized.


So do you think we should add “effort” as another dimension to the project management triangle?




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