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Revisiting the project management triangle

Adeline Teoh ed.
March 13, 2013

Good, fast, cheap—pick any two. That’s the old slogan that used to (only semi-jokingly) be applied to meeting project requirements. But I’ll let you in on a little secret about how you can make sure the project management triangle is equilateral…

As a part-time freelancer I like to keep up with my fellow writers-at-large and we often communicate through a freelancer forum. I was browsing through a few posts and stumbled upon a topic I don’t often see: when to turn down work.

One freelancer said he always said ‘no’ to clients who were looking for something quick and cheap, even if they weren’t fussed about the quality of the end product. His reasoning was that whatever he produced would be associated with him and potential clients who found him in the future wouldn’t know that the result was produced in the context of ‘quick and cheap’. The quality is what would matter to future assessment, he said.

I wholly agree with him, but coming from a project management angle, as I am wont to do on behalf of the thousands who read articles on our website, I saw a gap where project managers could possibly game the system.

How? By resetting the parameters. What’s considered ‘good’ in terms of time, cost and quality is largely subjective. If you told a client you might reach a milestone by a certain date, and then you didn’t meet it, it looks like a schedule blowout. But if instead you gave yourself some breathing space and gave them a later date that you could definitely meet, and met it, then all would be fine.

Similarly, cost and quality is all about managing expectations to a level where you are best able to meet them and then delivering on your promise. It’s understandable that we want to please everyone, so too often we tell stakeholders that the project will be better and come in under budget and ahead of schedule when it would be wiser to be a bit more conservative in what we say.

What’s your best tip for making sure you meet requirements?

Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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