Iron triangle? What? It's just a slick term somebody gave to project triangles, because the principles behind these triangles is so hard you can't bend them.
What is a project triangle?
A project triangle is the graphical representation of three competing demands: time, cost, and scope as they relate to project management. View the project triangle wiki article.
The video below attempts to inspire viewers to try project triangles for themselves. Once you see them, they start to make more sense. After all, it's a graphical thing. One one corner of the triangle you have your time spent. One a second corner, you have cost. And then on the third corner of the triangle are your deliverables. Everybody wants to manipulate these three aspects of the project to benefit them. They want the project really fast, or really cheap, or have everything they ever asked for in the deliverable. But that can't happen, can it?
"I want everything"
"I want it cheap"
"And I want it now"
Watch the video and then scroll down for a deeper discussion.
The three competing demands
Anyone with a stake in a project usually has an interest in these three aspects: time, cost, and scope. They will hope the project finishes quickly, is inexpensive, and contains a lot of goodies (scope of the deliverables). Plotting these three demands on a triangle illustrates their importance. It also illustrates project health. Viewers instantly get it when one or more of these aspects is messed up. The triangle looks hideous, and your first inclination is to set out to fix it.
"Our costs were horendous"
Time, Cost, Scope: choose any two
As stated earlier, project stakeholders want to control all three aspects of the project. But in reality, that's not possible. Usually, you can only choose two demands, and the third is left to take care of itself. For instance, suppose you demand that the product is cheap and quick. Then you have to accept the possibility that the deliverable would be shallow. Or, if you demand a robust deliverable and low cost, then you may have to wait a long time for the final delivery.
If you don't accept these limitations, your project triangle may look awful. But at least you can see it visually, and that may be enough to convince stakeholders to back off and let the chips fall where they may.
"We picked cost and scope"
The Project Diamond
In addition to time, cost, and scope, your project may have a fourth competing demand: quality. Quality is usually defined as resemblance to specifications. In other words, if the specs say it must have no more than ten bugs, then it is said to be high-quality when there are no more than ten bugs. You can measure quality easily. Just compare the final product to the specs. If it meets them, it is high quality.
With quality as a fourth demand, the triangle turns into a diamond.
Again, you can view all four demands on a graphical chart, which inspires viewers to alter their priorities and make course corrections.
"Everything changed when we saw that triangle!"
The psychological effect of viewing project triangles
Even a novice can spot problems with a project triangle. Usually, the triangle looks so hideous that the viewer wants to ask why.
"Why is 'cost' off the chart?"
These little charts become a powerful communication tool you can use in stakeholder meetings to communicate project health. Viewers instantly get it. Decisions are easily made after viewing project triangles.
Hello, project managers! Are you familiar with project triangles?Have you seen them in Standard Time®? Here’s a quick overview that might inspire you to use them regularly. Every project has at least three competing demands: Time, Cost, and Scope
Any one of these three could cause trouble for your project if not managed. Use project triangles to watch for:
- Exploding schedules
- Budget busters
- Lame deliverables