Project Management Institute

Triple threat

TAKE the Lead

Focus on a project's challenging aspects to reduce their impact.


The triple constraint is at the root of project success. But while we can plan to control scope, time and cost, we still cannot guarantee success. That's because, during the project's life cycle, roadblocks will get in the way of delivering the value customers expect.

Most of these roadblocks arise from what I like to call “the triad”: complexity, uncertainty and changeability. Tackling these three elements should be as top of mind as the triple constraint—during planning and execution. Simply put, every stage of a project should include strategies to effectively minimize complexity, uncertainty and changeability.

Here's a start on how to deal with each.

COMPLEXITY: The motto with complexity should be “divide and conquer.” The more you use tools, such as the work breakdown structure, to subdivide each major project deliverable into more manageable components, the more you will be able to delegate responsibility of the deliverables and their completion. Assess every decision you make in terms of impact. Beyond looking at time and cost, also examine the repercussions on other deliverables or activities in your plan and all elements of your complex system.

UNCERTAINTY: Risk management is the science of dealing with uncertainty, so it should be an integral part of all planning and controlling efforts. Establish a formal risk planning and controlling process to assess and reduce every risk in the project. One risk management option is the six-step process outlined in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). Every action you take and every decision you make should work toward reducing uncertainty.

CHANGEABILITY: First, aim to produce the best project plan you can. Work diligently on gathering all requirements, involve your team in defining scope and work with your stakeholders to freeze specifications once a good baseline has been reached. The more stable and robust your plan is from the start, the less likely the execution process will be interrupted by change requests. Build in a change control procedure that all stakeholders must follow if they want to make any changes. Work with your team to protect the stability of the project's scope, time and cost, assessing positive and negative impacts of any change to these variables.

Finally, remember that any change to the project baselines will produce more complexity and uncertainty to the end result. Not only are these elements challenging as stand-alone obstacles, they are also interconnected in nature, making them all the more formidable. PM

img Roberto Toledo, MBA, PMP, is managing partner of Alpha PM Consulting, and a trainer and consultant who works across the Americas. He can be reached at or followed on Twitter as @robertoledo.
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