Prioritizing project requirements and acknowledging trade-offs

Like many others we are currently facing project management challenges that strain everyone. Competing messages; deliverable overload; and unrealistic scheduling often create yet more friction and frustration. Identifying these and pushing back on them is healthy for the PM and for the team.

Identifying these competing interests and requirements is painfully simple. I recently shared the following with some colleagues.

Your comment that, ‘you make it sound so simple’ prompts me to send the following It is a concise presentation of the immutable law of project management. The general form of that law is that all projects are a trade-off between 2 of the following 3 core considerations.

– Features
– Schedule
– Resources

You may have heard the euphemism that ‘You can have it fast; you can have it good; you can have it cheap. But you can only have 2 of these 3.”

Project management is about first determining which of these three are fixed. Once that’s determined, then decide which of the two remaining aspects is the more important, and lastly, adjust the third remaining item.

The particular situation required consideration the number of trainers, locations and schedules required to delivery a major training initiative to hundreds of staff.

RESOURCES: Trainers (~ 12), Locations ( 3 )
SCHEDULE: Implementation Date (mid-September)
FEATURES: Curriculum scope (I’m assuming this item is fixed. We can’t adjust it and still get the desired outcome.)

IF FEATURES ARE FIXED and SCHEDULE is the top priority then
– choose schedule (largely as it currently is)
– and adjust resources (expand trainers and/or expand the number of persons at each training session – assumes this is possible)

IF FEATURES ARE FIXED and RESOURCES  (keeping existing trainers; can’t add trainers or expand participants / session) are the top priority then
– choose resources (keep identified trainers at existing locations)
– and adjust schedule (push back implementation date)

These principles apply to any type of project. The process at arriving at a common understanding is neither easy nor simple. It does help to be honest and clear about what is fixed and what is not. Which aspect of the project is most important? Knowing and sharing the basis for our selected option should ease the pain of necessary adjustments and reduce the natural tendency to cut corners when faced with the impossible.


About mielniczuk

Community, systems, design, collaboration, change, evidence, Intelligent Accountability(c)
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