Our series on Project Management
continues, as we take a look at the Iron Triangle.
Whatever project you are working on, it’s likely that its success
will rely on the following three parameters:
Even a small change to one of these ‘Iron Triangle’ features can
affect the others – with the potential to disrupt or damage the quality of the whole
How does the Iron Triangle affect a project?
Before a project begins, the planning process will usually involve
discussions about budget, scope and schedule.
Once the project is underway, decisions made about any of these
three issues will almost certainly affect the other two.
For example, if part of the project requires a higher budget than
anticipated, this might mean that the scope of the project has to be reduced in
some way, or that the schedule has to be stretched over a longer period of
Ultimately, the challenge facing anyone running a project is how
to balance budget, scope and schedule. This can mean difficult decisions along
the way, which need to be carefully thought out and discussed by team members.
An example of the Iron Triangle at work
Your company is rebranding its core products. The new label design
is not popular with test consumers and you decide to go back to the drawing
board, which means you have to delay the product relaunch.
Because the schedule has been disrupted, your budget will be
affected as more staff hours are spent on working on the project, plus
potential additional costs for design work.
Another option could be to change the scope of the project. For
example, instead of rebranding all of your core products, you could decide to
test the water with a small number of products and delay work on the others
until a later date.
What should you do if your Iron Triangle is disrupted?
First, look again at your plans for the project. What were the
objectives and how will disruption to the Iron Triangle affect the end result
you’re aiming for?
Involve your staff and stakeholders in the process. Work out what
flexibility is needed within the project to adapt to the changes that have
Taking each element in turn:
- Look for cost savings that will have the least
- Swap to cheaper versions of non-essential or
less important components or resources – or get rid of them altogether
- Reduce expenses, eg: travel costs, venue hire
- Remove any planned tasks that are not
essential to the final outcome of the project
- Ask suppliers if there are any options for
- Look into whether the change to the scope is
- Work out if any elements of the scope can be
delayed to a future project and time
- See if changes to the scope will have such a
major impact that the whole project requires reassessing
- Assess whether you can change, reorder or
remove tasks to keep to schedule
- Work out if any tasks could be moved to a
- See if you have any contingency time built in,
which could be used to keep on schedule
Be aware of the Speed, Cost, Quality principle
This is the principle that, for most projects, you will only be
able to achieve two of the following three elements: Speed, Cost, Quality. This
principle states that:
A product that is delivered quickly and at low cost won’t be of
A product delivered quickly and to a high quality won’t be cheap
A product delivered to a high quality but cheaply won’t be made
There can be exceptions, but it’s a good idea to work out which of
these elements is the most important for your project.
While changes to smaller details can help to get your project back
on track, don’t forget to look at the bigger picture and ensure that your
project goals will still be met, while communicating any changes to team
members and stakeholders.