Beyond The Iron Triangle: Year Zero
Originally published as a part of
2012 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Marseilles, France
Success in Project Management has been traditionally associated with the ability
of the Project Manager to deliver in scope, time, cost and quality. The “iron
triangle” is a very popular metaphor pointing out that the Project Manager is
asked to reach a reasonable trade-off among various concurrent, heterogeneous
and visible constraints.
At the same time, “soft skills” for the Project Manager have been traditionally
identified as a set of cross-cutting skills that should complement the core job
of establishing and maintaining reasonable tradeoffs among the elements of the
iron triangle. This paper postulates that this is not enough.
The Project Manager is challenged by constraints other than the “measureable”
scope, cost, time and quality. Individuals need motivation, but the available
motivational space is not infinite. Ground rules for behaviour and communication
should be established, but the performing organization could influence and limit
the choices. Lastly, individuals should be facilitated in exploiting their own
prominent assertive or holistic attitudes, but the nature of the project and the
context at-large may be in contrast.
There is more than the “iron triangle”: there is a “soft pyramid”, a metaphor
for concurrent constraints related to the “internal satisfaction” of the
individuals working in the project.
To be successful, the Project Manager should also reach a reasonable trade-off
among various concurrent heterogeneous factors that constitute the “soft pyramid”:
this is much more than “making usage of soft skills in Project Management”, and
should be made explicit in Project Management best practices.
Few extensions to PMBOK® are proposed in the HR knowledge area, and practical
suggestions are provided for the “year zero” of this new awareness.