Have you ever heard of the Iron Triangle?
It sounds like some type of endurance challenge or a region in some far-flung place, doesn’t it?
If you’re a project manager, you’re very familiar with it.
You may have also heard it referred to as the Triple Constraints: it’s Cost, Scope, and Time. In other words, the fundamental elements of a project.
As a project manager, you’re constantly maintaining (or trying to maintain) a balance of these. Because If one moves, the other two will shift.
There’s a saying – “You can have it fast. You can have it good. You can have it cheap. Pick two.”
But as a PM, even if you can keep these three somewhat balanced – there’s more you need to consider to ensure your project is successful.
For me, once I have my arms around my constraints, I then go through these:
- Review past performance: I go over my notes from our post-project reviews/post-mortems – paying careful attention to what worked and didn’t work in recent projects.
- Lay out the project plan: I draft my project plan with tasks, resources, milestones, and dates – knowing tweaking and adjustments begin once I get it in front of the team.
- Create my risk plan: Next, I review the entire project flow and identify risks, their level of impact, and a mitigation plan should they arise. At this stage, some of the milestones identified in the project plan may become go/no-go gates depending on associated risks.
- Create the communication plan: I then define how and when I will be communicating throughout the project, how to confirm information understanding/agreement, and how to gather updates. My goal here is always timely transparency across the team.
Once all of these areas are ready – then I feel prepared to get the project moving.
These may seem like the most basic activities of a project. If I were to lay out the full PMI version, there would be even more.
But I frequently see projects launch without much time invested in even the basic constraints. It’s like the PM version of Ready-Shoot-Aim. It’s painful to watch – and even more painful if you somehow get sucked in.
There is no such thing as a perfect project (in action). There are always new lessons to be learned – but at least I have a chance to avoid repeating past problems when I address these areas too.
When you’re getting ready to launch a project, what are those critical things you address before you get started? I’d love to hear your comments.
Here are some additional thoughts from other project managers: