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Beyond the Iron Age for projects

Jed Simms
December 17, 2015

The Iron Triangle project success measures of on time, on budget lock organisations into compromise and failure as, using these measures, their goal is not the successful delivery of their desired business outcomes, benefits and value, but an on time, on budget delivery.

If organisations are to improve their project results they need to move out of the Iron Age.

Although still relevant, the Iron Triangle needs to be subjugated by the Value Triangle. Yes, I do mean ‘subjugated’, as the concept of using the Iron Triangle as the primary measure of success needs to be crushed.

Its use as the primary measure of success needs to be seen as a leading indicator of failure, a hallmark of value destruction. If this all too hard? Too extreme? Not really.

Rusted-on risks

We have previously detailed how the Iron Triangle leads to decisions being made that destroy longer-term business value.

How do 40% of projects aiming to meet (and occasionally succeeding in meeting) the Iron Triangle measures leave their organisations worse off than before?

How many project managers discount the possibility of even delivering to the Iron Triangle measures? You can only expect two out of three, remember.

Rusted-on poor performance

Using inappropriate performance measures is always a recipe for failure to some degree or another. It is the same with projects. If you don’t use the right success measures you will destroy business value, increase project costs, extend the delivery time and compromise the strategy. And organisations are unwittingly doing this every day because there has been no valid alternative.

The Value Age

Now there is valid alternative—the Value Triangle—that equips organisations to move out of the Iron Age and into the Value Age. The Value Triangle shifts the focus of the business, project and governance teams from (on time, on budget) completion to actually delivering real, measurable value to the business.

As long as organisations continue to focus on the Iron Triangle measures to the exclusion of the Value Triangle measures, project results will continue to be poor. It really is that simple.

It is time to move out of the Iron Age and into the Value Age. That time is now.

Jed Simms
Jed Simms is the founder and co-creator of Totally Optimized Projects, an internationally recognised strategy-based, business-driven approach to delivering projects. He specialises in project governance and control and value and benefits management. He is also the founding partner of consultancy Capability Management.
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