The standard Triple Constraint or Iron Triangle measures of project success actually cause expensive to the business problems and should be replaced

Is the Triple Constraint Solving or Creating a problem?

One thing that affronts my value system is a product that creates a ‘problem’ and then ‘solves’ it with a product that actually makes things worse. Products that create sterile environments for kids that thereby prevent their immune systems developing, making them more liable to diseases later, comes to mind.

Solutions that create problems are, therefore, to be avoided. However, we have one ‘solution’ that is widely valued in both the business and project worlds that is creating problems—expensive problems for businesses.

I am referring to the Triple Constraint – otherwise known as the ‘Iron Triangle’ - measuring project success by 'on time, on budget, to specification.'

Over the past few weeks I have been asking anyone and everyone, “What are your project success measures?” Everyone responds, “On time, on budget”.

This further confirms our 2013 survey of a number of CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, CXOs, Project Managers and Chairmen who were all asked what their primary measures of project success were. To our (then) surprise and horror all except the chairmen said, “On time and on budget”.

To have the wrong measures of success is one thing. But where your measures of success incite failure and destroy business value this needs to be addressed, urgently. (We'll explain how this is the case in the next few blogs).

But first—how does your organization measure project success?

What variations or supplements do you have to the Triple Constraint, and why do you think they are (or are not) worthwhile?

Let us know in comments below.


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Topics: Project Success

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Revision History

First published: Simms, J. (Sept 2015) as "The Triple Constraint Measures Of Project Success Are Dangerous"

Updated: Chapman, A. (March 2020), Revisions and Corrections