Project management is considered to have three fundamental dimensions:
A useful exercise at the start of a project is to ask key stakeholders which aspect is most important to them. Not just on the internal team, but the wider group of stakeholders who will have an interest in the project. Try asking each person to rank the three items.
Sure, you’ll get some people who’ll respond very clearly with, “All of them are equally important!” – that’s fine. They may be a beginner or a very experienced veteran of projects. If the former, smart project managers will take care to educate the beginner throughout the project, for example on the impact of their decisions on all three dimensions. If the latter, the savvy project manager will draw on the experience of these stakeholders and seek their input and advice.
- For some, time will dominate. They may have sound reasons for wanting the job done on time, such as a contract with a key distributor, a major conference or an impending competitor launch. Ask them respectful questions about their key dates and deadlines along the path to completion.
- Other stakeholders may be focused on cost. This is highly likely if you’re dealing with procurement people; yet it’s worth remembering that procurement is a quest for value, not just driving down cost. So be sure to emphasise the ways in which value is being added at the project’s different stages.
- Quality will be the most important for some, particularly in a safety-conscious endeavour (space shuttle, home security, toys for small children – one hopes). Or it may be that there is reputational risk at stake, on a highly creative project (a new movie), or after a drop in quality (horsemeat, anyone?)
Notice as you consider these three dimensions which is the most important to you – the one over which you’d be most prepared to make the extra effort, and the one you’d be most likely to compromise over. Chances are you’ll identify your deal-breakers – remember that they will differ for different stakeholders.
For each of these three aspects of a project, it’s vital to explore what’s at stake for your different stakeholders. Have a frank and thorough discussion about the objectives for the project and which of the three dimensions is most important. What does success look like for each aspect?
You may also find this blog post useful: Plug a common project management money drain.
Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available on Amazon.