Risk Mapping to Primary Constraints

Given the final acceptance of the project management community of the primary constraints model (scope, time, cost, quality, and risk) in place of the less applicable “iron triangle,” or “triple constraints” that was popular during the first two decades of the project management discipline, mapping of risks to the primary constraints becomes a necessary activity in order to improve risk mitigation and plan for more effective issue response directives.

The primary constraints model that we at MCLMG accept is illustrated in the following figure:
Primary Constraints

This figure shows that for all projects/program regardless of size or complexity, the need to ensure a balance between the primary constraints is necessary in order to produce the fundamental quality outcome of a project, i.e., the production of “fit-for-use” deliverables. At MCLMG, we call this Deliverable-Centered Project Management (DCPM).

While this concept may appear simplistic at first, we have discovered through the rescue and initiation of many projects for both the commercial and governmental sectors that many project teams including the project managers draw a blank when we ask them these seemingly straightforward questions:

“What are your project’s deliverables, and what determines their “fit-for-use?”

While for the project business sponsors the concept of what they expect or demand from the project for which they are funding can be an item of clarity, this clarity in many cases does not make the transition to the project team or its management resources. Business sponsors know intuitively what the project will need to produce and the quality of that production in order for them to accept the project as complete and successful – project managers in many cases are not so intuitively inclined.

Thus, the misalignment between the business sponsor’s expectations and the project manager’s focus is why there is the need to map risks to the primary constraints. When a project team maps their risk potentials (uncertain future events) along with their risk expected values (REV) to activities being planned, developed, and implemented, a better understanding of the future and its possible impacts on the project’s ability to produce “fit-for-use” deliverables suddenly becomes clearer. Project teams immediately focus their attention on those risks with the highest REV and the most severe possible correlation to the primary constraints as the paramount action of implementing proactive risk coverage to their projects. This mapping will assist in producing the additional risk register / issue log parameters necessary to support the association of risk potentials to the primary constraints.

The mapping of constraints to risk potentials immediately benefit the project by allowing the project resources to be applied with a better understanding of their efficacious and effective utilization on achieving the balance of the constraints needed to produce “fit-for-use” deliverables. This improved utilization supports the project’s goal of producing the demanded quality of deliverables within the budget and timeframes expectations of the business sponsors.

Over the next several blogs, we will discuss the mapping concepts between risks and the primary constraints (scope, time, cost, and quality). Please join us for this very important and needful discussion involving the risk environments confronting most if not all projects, programs, and portfolios.

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