The past decade has seen a surge—and, in some instance, a resurgence—of new (and old) management strategies. But perhaps one of the most prominent and important ones to regain relevancy is the Triple Constraint Model, aka the “pyramid model” or “Iron Triangle.”

So, what exactly is the Triple Constraint Model, and why should management teams use it? Let’s dive in.

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What is the Triple Constraint Model?

The Triple Constraint model is a type of management style that helps teams, no matter what market or field they’re in, understand the aspects of a certain project and how to complete it efficiently. It boils down to three “constraint” elements that are relevant to every project: time, scope, and cost.

The Elements of the Triple Constraint Model

Here’s a breakdown of those variables:

  • Time. This is pretty straightforward. Time is time. Unless you’re Hermoine Granger. With this constraint, you’re thinking about how the project’s allotted amount of time will affect its end-goal and overall quality. Time could be even further segmented out to include certain “milestones” or “micro-goals” for certain tasks.
  • Scope, unlike time, is in more of a gray-area. Depending on your team, the scope—i.e. the tasks required to fulfill the project’s goals—will vary. It’s essential to understand the project’s goal and how they’ll fit within the Triple Constraint Model, beforehand – this will allow you to delegate relevant tasks to the right person or party. Consider doing a project overview prior to cementing tasks into the Iron Triangle.
  • Cost is another upfront element of this pyramid model. In evaluating the project’s cost, you need to take things into account like online resources, labor rates for contractors, risk estimates, rental spaces, and transaction expenses. Any monetary constraint related to a project’s budget should be accounted for here.

Ultimately, all of these three factors come together in the middle of the triangle to and make up “quality.”

Why is the Triple Constraint Model Important?

Think of this management model like the bumper guards at your local bowling alley: They help to keep the ball (your project) on course, all while protecting it (your end-goal) from failure. Or a gutter ball.

The Triple Constraint model works best when viewed as a set of boundaries that your team can work within. In the same way restrictions actually increase creativity, working within this framework can help those involved work efficiently, garner new insights, and make the project more successful.

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Because of the metrics applied to the Triple Constraint model, it provides clear direction as to what’s working and what’s not. Triple Constraint is a fantastic risk mitigation model to adopt, especially for projects that are volatile or fragile in nature.

From a project management standpoint, this pyramid structure allows you to think on the fly as well, choosing when to compromise and how much to “trade and/or borrow” in order to keep the whole project balanced. In a way, you’re like tightrope walker of sorts in this situation, trying to see how much pressure to give and take from either side in order to keep your footing stable. A few questions to think about:

  • How will our budget affect the scope of the project?
  • Is our timetable realistic in order to deliver on the goals we want?
  • Do we have enough time to acquire the resources needed for tasks to be completed?
  • Does our project’s scope, time, and cost variables make it worthwhile in regards to the benefits gained from achieving the goal?

How to Incorporate the Triple Constraints Model into Your Management Style

Using the Triple Constraint Method to execute your next project could yield great results. However, it’s important to do a few things first.

Before going all in with this management strategy, it’s important everyone in your team knows what you’re talking about. It could be helpful to send out a team-wide email that contains a breakdown of the Triple Constraint Model and resources for them to reference.

Also, like most ventures in both life and work, it’s better to begin small and scale up. Start implementing the Triple Constraint method in low-risk situations and for projects that aren’t too important. Once you (and your team) get a hang of it, you can leverage this existing structure to tackle bigger quarterly or annual projects.

An Overview of the Triple Constraint Model, in Redux

At its core, the Triple Constraint formula asserts that the success of a goal is related to how well a budget is laid out, the punctuality of deadlines, and if the project’s tasks have been both ideated on and executed with efficiency.

The Triple Constraint model helps you as a project manager lead your team to success. By putting simple, easy-to-follow constraints in place, coupled with the on-the-fly inputs and insights you (the leader) provides, the Triple Constraint model is a sure-fire way to tackle your next project.

Keep everything balanced and in check, and you’ll see the project to the proverbial finish line.