My colleague at the Stevens Institute of Technology, Thomas Lechler, did research on creating business value through projects. The paper, The Mindset for Creating Project Value, is available for free for PMI members at www.pmi.org. He argues the PMs should shift their mindset from the triple constraint to creating business value.
Here is Dr. Lechler’s hypothesis: projects measure success against the triple constraint: scope, schedule and cost. If a project did what it was supposed to do, on time and on budget, then it was a success. Business, however, don’t measure success this way. They are looking for other things such as increasing revenue, decreasing expenses, increasing customer satisfaction, and serving more people (for a charity, perhaps). It’s easy to imagine situations where these different definitions of success conflict. Microsoft’s Kin cell phone may have been a project success but it tanked in the marketplace. Apple’s iPhone could have failed each of the three project success measures but nobody cares because it created massive value for the organization.
Dr. Lechler compares PMs with a triple constraint mindset vs. a project value mindset. PMs with a triple constraint mindset will naturally force a project to its baseline. They want to achieve project success. PMs with a project value mindset are more likely to identify and pursue project changes that may negatively impact the project but ultimately benefit the organization. Interesting data and I encourage you to read it.
I must stress that it is critical that businesses select projects wisely and that PMs know the strategic business goals for the project. Usually, the PM is in the best position to know if a project is going to achieve business value.
Despite the headline, a PM should not ignore the triple constraint. But PMs must remember that projects are undertaken to achieve a goal and the goal is more may be important than the triple constraint.