11 March 2009

It used to be the Iron Triangle

The iron triangle of time cost and scope has been updated to the project diamond.

A while ago I was advised to not only bcome familiar with the concepts in the iron triangle (now diamond), but to take them to the project sponsor and key stakeholders and get the dimensions ranked.

The benefit of doing this is twofold;

1. You quickly reveal the misalignment in stakeholer and sponsor priorities.
2. Your team can then get on and make decisions on scope, quality and schedule without having to refer back to the sterring committee so often.

Ranking priorities highlights the issue that money matters to the peson paying (i.e. the sponsor), but not to frontline managers or SMEs who work with your team day to day on articulating requirements.  This may be one of the sources for enterprise project over-runs and scope creep.

By clearly and publicly setting the priorities it gets easier to manage people's expectations abut what can and should be one by the project team.

Take a look at how I think my current project diamond dimensions are ranked by the sponsor.This set of priorities does not line up with the key stakehodlers, but here it is out in public and it becomes a much more managable issue.


  1. Anonymous1:26 pm

    Interesting stuff. I think I still prefer the triangle, personally.

    I always saw the iron triangle as something that you could take to business folks when hard decisions had to be made because it makes sense to them, i.e., here are the levers you can play with but you can't move one with out affecting the others.

    I'm just not sure I see quality as being negotiable in the same way. You know - "how quickly and inexpensively can you get it to me if we just really cut back on quality?"

    Anyway, not I'm not here just to hate on the diamond. It was a good article, and, believe it or not, I wasn't aware of that site. Thanks for the tip!

  2. JB

    I am not 110% down with the diamond yet either. At first pass quality feels like it should be part of scope.

    ie your scope of work/the scope of the product should address quality.

    I'll have to read further.

    In the meantime I am using it like the triangle. Except instead of the famous "pick any two" line, I am after a ranking from 1-4.

  3. I like the separation between quality and scope because, in my mind, it separates the approach you commit to from the results.

    Results actually seem to me to be a better term than quality--tying the project not just to delivering functionality but enabling change/improvement in the underlying business.

  4. I'm not sure I'm buying the diamond concept either. At first look it seems too serial... see the graphic... Time leads to Quality leads to Scope leads to Cost leads to Time...

    I'd be more intrigued by a pyramid. Viewed from "above" it would look like the traditional Triple Constraint Triangle with the "dot" representing the "top" being Quality which I've often seen represented as in the center of the Triple Constraint Triangle.

    Viewed from other perspectives it might show relationships between two points on the Pyramid. For example... Quality and Time, Quality and Cost, Quality and Scope, Time and Cost, Time and Scope, and Cost and Scope.

    Further it could show relationships between three points... Quality, Time, and Cost... etc

    I've typically viewed Quality as defined more with Scope as Scope represents to me the product of the project. It's the tangible "thing" I'm left with. But... I do see aspects of Quality in Time and Cost as well.

    What I do like about the Diamond model is, while I've thought about how Quality really should fit in the Triangle, the Diamond prompted me to think about this in a different way. I had never visualized or thought about the Pyramid model until now.

  5. I like the idea of working with a project sponsor to understand where he or she stands on the competing topics of schedule, budget, quality, and scope.

    When I have performed this exercise at the beginning of projects, I have never found anyone to budge on quality. None of my clients has ever stated that quality is anything less than the highest priority, and I have worked in many environments. Project execution, many times, is a different matter. When budget or schedule will not support the high priority quality component, it helps to place quality on the triangle/diamond where my clients are afraid to admit. I typically breeze through discussion of prioritizing quality because it is never much of a discussion.

  6. Anonymous2:27 am

    It ought to be a tetrahedron.

  7. Anonymous12:41 pm

    get agile

  8. Hey Anon, thanks for posting :)

    This is quite similar to the prioritisation sliders agile teams use.

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