As a project manager, you can expect your project to be bound by time, scope, and cost. This is called the triple constraint of project management (Izquierdo). Each of these elements work in tandem with each other, and making a change to one, impact the others. Let’s use cooking Thanksgiving dinner to illustrate how all projects are confined by the triple constraint.
What happens to the time and cost when the scope is changed?
You are expecting six family members and you plan to make turkey, mashed potatoes, collard greens and sweet potato pie. This is the scope, or requirements, of your Thanksgiving meal project. You find out that six more family members who weren’t planning to travel this year have changed their mind and are now coming to your home for Thanksgiving. This doubles your budget and increases your cooking time as you decide to double each of your recipes to ensure there’s enough food for everyone.
What happens to the cost and scope when the time constraint is changed?
Your job unexpectedly grants you the week off for Thanksgiving due to your hard work. Since you have extra time to prep for your meal, you decide that in addition to the items you originally planned to make, you’re going to add mac and cheese, cranberry sauce, and ham. Because you are given added time on your Thanksgiving meal project, your scope has changed, and your cost has increased.
What happens to the scope and time when the cost is changed?
Just before you’re about to purchase your Thanksgiving meal ingredients, you find out that you must replace the engine in your car. You have to prioritize this expense and take some money out of the budget you set aside for your Thanksgiving meal project. You decide to stick with your original meal plan instead of including the additions of mac and cheese, cranberry sauce, and ham. Because your cost has changed, your scope has changed, and you will save time since you are cooking less items.
When it comes to the triple constraint, it is important for the scope, time, and cost to be in balance. the ascent offers advice on how to manage them: “Create a buffer during project planning for the time and cost elements of the triple constraint. Leveraging project management tools is the best way to ensure you’re effectively managing a project’s resources, budgets, and timelines” (Izquierdo).
Izquierdo, Robert. “The Project Manager’s Guide to the Triple Constraint.” the ascent, https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/small-business/project-management/articles/triple-constraint/. Accessed 27 July 2022.