Are you focussing too much on the cost, schedule & quality triangle?



With ever increasing focus on the cost, schedule and quality triangle to monitor and manage a project; is your business assessing the impact project performance will have on the business and its people? In addition, is your PM’s MINDSET programmed for the project?


A project is highly likely to have an impact on the business. Whether that is positive or negative depends on project outcomes. Either way, there is an impact. The level of impact can relate to the size of the project. However, it may be important to note that even a small project failure in a small company can have a very significant impact. What may be a cost, schedule and quality triangle problem to solve for a PM may be a catalyst for a new market for the business. In addition, a project failure in a small business may result in future cash flow being eradicated that may have been relied upon for a new expansion programme and so on.  


The diagram below illustrates the traditional project triangle with the added elements of “the business”, “the people” and “the PM mindset”. Adding these elements may help the Senior Management team communicate more effectively the importance that a project has on the business. This could help with the assignment of personnel. A high profile project may have an unnerving impact on some people assigned but could be a magnet for others. However, be wary of people jumping from one “shiny” project to another….
















By MINDSET I am simply referring to a number of key characteristics that effective PM’s can adopt to help deal with project complexity and uncertainty. In such highly complex projects with uncertain outcomes, the MINDSET of a PM is crucial. For example, in a routine project, within a set framework, standard guidelines a cost, schedule and quality triangle will work just fine. Work packs can be created, assigned against a resource schedule and regular update meetings attended. The characterises of this PM need to be:


  • articulate

  • organised

  • determined

  • directive

  • willingness to delegate

  • conforming


Where difficulty can arise is those characteristics being applied to a highly complex project or a project where the wheels have come off. The characteristics required quickly change to:


  • resilience

  • agility

  • immersion

  • coaching

  • inclusion


The above are cited purely for example and in no way an attempt to either suggest one set of characteristics is preferred over the other. In reality, most PM’s will share some if not all of the above characteristics. It is worth nothing that some PM’s may be more confortable is different scenarios.


One final note; when presented with a new changing project situation or a PM has been handed the dreaded” fast-track” project, the PM’s MINDSET can either help or hinder progress. For example, once any shock has been dissipated, if a PM can enter a state that supports positive action and potentially reframe what the situation means, it may help reduce stress for the PM and result in forward momentum. This is a very large and nebulous subject area and it would be of interest to understand more about the PM coping and thinking mechanisms and how they impact project success.




  • If a PM is in a project turnaround, or a crisis situation, rather than demand a scheduled report update, go and speak with them. You will quickly gauge whether someone is working towards a solution or spinning in circles.


  • Assign PM’s with the appropriate MINDSET for the project.


  • Do not expect a complex project such as a new product development programme to go to schedule but make sure the PM running the project can cope with the uncertainty and can nimbly correct deviations.


  • Make sure the PM is fully aware of what impact project performance will have on the business. This could be a test for PM selection!


  • If the outcome of the project is uncertain and delivery may slip, prime your finance department in advance to help prevent dependency.


  • Make sure the right people or on the project. It is CRUCIAL that a PM with a complex project has strong team members. It is however, the PM’s job to create and nurture the team.