What do constraints tell us about success?

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Do you still believe that performance within the triple constraints of time, cost and quality are how success should be judged?

Did you realise that the vast majority (around 85%) of projects fail to deliver within the constraints against which they were originally sanctioned (i.e. the baseline constraints contained in the original business case)?

Given this rate of 'failure' it seems that the time, cost and quality constraints (the fabled 'iron triangle') can't be the only way in which success is viewed and indeed it might not even be a measure of success but something else. If you doubt this ask yourself these two simple questions:

Interesting isn't it? Nearly everyone can think of instances where the answers to those questions are both yes. What does this tell us? Whilst the 'iron triangle' may be important it doesn't completely or uniquely define success. I'd go a step further and say that actually it tells us next to nothing about the success of an initiative but it is used as a measure of successful management.

This seems to raise two really important questions:

  1. If time, cost and quality don't really tell us a lot about success; what does?
  2. How can we, as project managers, ensure we rise to the management challenge of getting into the 15% who do deliver conformant to their baseline time, cost and quality?

Now we, at CITI, think we know the answers to both of these questions but we'd love to hear your views or have a discussion - so why not give us a call or drop a line.


Nick Dobson
Managing Consultant, CITI Limited


Nick Dobson

Nick Dobson

I enjoy helping individuals at all organisational levels to review and positively modify beliefs and behaviours
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