Olympics vs. Nuclear Power Reactors

In this series of posts, I share what I’m learning as I make my way through Project Management Simplified, a Lynda.com course with management consultant, Chris Croft.

Croft describes the three drivers of projects:

  • Cost
  • Quality
  • Time

It’s important for a project manger to identify which of these is the key driver.

Croft gives the examples of the Olympics and the construction of a nuclear power reactor.

The key element for the Olympics is time. The event will take place on a particular day no matter what, even if the cost goes up or the quality goes down.

With the construction of a nuclear power reactor, the key element should be quality; even if it takes 2 more years to get it right, the quality has to be the driver of the project.

But in many projects, it may be hard to know which is most important, so Croft suggests using “Three Cunning Questions” in conversations with clients (or bosses) about project priorities:

  1. Why? Why does it need to be done on that date? Or: Why have you set the budget for that amount?
  2. What if? For example: What if we can’t get it done by that date?
  3. Can we trade? You could suggest to the client that if we spent more, we could put in some nicer features. Or you could say, “We can do it in that timeline but it would mean that we wouldn’t have time to accomplish everything you are asking for. Which would you prefer?”

Have you had conversations like these, either as client, employer, or project manager? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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