It is time to replace the Iron Triangle measures with the TOP Value Triangle measures as the basis for increasing project success

Projects are Continuing to deliver 'Iron Age' results

The ‘Iron Triangle’ project success measures—of on time, on budget—lock organizations into compromise and failure as, using these measures, their goal is not the successful delivery of their desired business outcomes, benefits and value, but an on time, on budget delivery.

If organizations are to improve their project results they need to move out of the Iron Age.

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Although still relevant, the Iron Triangle needs to be subjugated by the Value Triangle. Yes, I do mean ‘subjugated’ as the concept of using the Iron Triangle as the primary measure of success needs to be crushed.

Its use as the primary measure of success needs to be seen as a leading indicator of failure—a hallmark of value destruction.

If this all too hard? Too extreme? Not really.

Rusted on risks

We have previously detailed how the Iron Triangle leads to decisions being made that destroy longer-term business value here.

How 40% of projects aiming to meet (and occasionally succeeding in meeting) the Iron Triangle measures leave their organizations worse off than before.

How many project managers discount the possibility of even delivering to the Iron Triangle measures (you can only expect two out of three, remember?)

Rusted on poor performance

Using inappropriate performance measures is always a recipe for failure to some degree or another. It is the same with projects. If you don’t use the right success measures you will destroy business value, increase project costs, extend the delivery time and compromise the strategy. And organizations are unwittingly doing this every day because there has been no valid alternative.

The new, Value Age

Now there is valid alternative — the TOP Value Triangle — that equips organizations to move out of the Iron Age and into the Value Age. The Value Triangle shifts the focus of the business, project and governance teams from (on time, on budget) completion to actually delivering real, measurable value to the business.

As long as organizations continue to focus on the Iron Triangle measures to the exclusion of the Value Triangle measures, project results will continue to be poor. It really is that simple.

It is time to move out of the Iron Age and into the Value Age. That time is now.

To equip you to move, we have published our ebook


And on December 10th we are hosting a FREE WEBINAR on the "Six steps to increasing project success" - join us

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Topics: Project Success

Further Reading



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Revision History

First published: Simms, J. (Nov 2015) as "Time For Projects To Move Out Of The 'Iron Age'"

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