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The Magic Triangle

The Magic Triangle 23.03.2017 - During his or her training every project manager learns something about the Magic Triangle. This name is slightly misleading because there is actually no magic involved at all in the Magic Triangle. In fact, the complete opposite applies because the concept involves pure logic. The Magic Triangle describes the interdependencies between the three most important factors within a project: time, cost and quality. A variety of interdependencies occur between the factors that are located on the three points of the triangle. Changes in any one of these factors logically shifts the position and relationships of the other factors. It is possible to find more effective solutions to problems if particular situations can be visualised through the Magic Triangle model, which enables connections to be made between the time, cost and quality factors in a project. The Magic Triangle can prove to be a very useful tool as it enables project managers to demonstrate these interdependencies to customers in a very clear way.
 
The Three Aspects of Project Management
 
Project management basically involves three factors or three aspects, which influence every project. The relationships between the construction time, the quality of the end product and costs are logical and variable relative to each other. The three factors can also be regarded as the determining factors in project management because as soon a requirement changes in one of the three aspects, the balance shifts to the advantage of the other two.
 
An example:
A multi-storey car park is planned to be built and the building contractor’s main priority is to ensure that the project is completed as cheaply as possible. When cost is the most decisive factor, this means that concessions have to be made in terms of either timescales or quality, which may even affect both of these other factors.
For example, if the car park is to be built right in the centre of town and it is expected to be integrated among historical buildings, greater importance will be attached to quality and appearance. This results in an increase in cost and means more time will be required to complete the work. However, if the priority is to complete the car park as quickly as possible, quality will need to be reduced in order to achieve this and an unsophisticated design and simple materials will therefore need to be used. The project can also be completed more quickly by simply deploying additional manpower, which will obviously push up the costs. These interdependencies are obvious to every project manager and can be applied at any time.
 
Project Management Challenges
 
In the rarest of cases, a client wants to implement a project that is fundamentally too cheap. It needs to be implemented at lightening speed or the quality is expected to be topnotch whatever the costs. The majority of building contractors and clients aim to achieve a balanced mix and to position their projects somewhere around the ideal point where all the factors overlap. The goal is therefore to try to find a balance between the three aspects, which can prove to be a challenging task for the project manager. It is not always easy to find a balance between the different factors and the overall project should always be kept in clear view. It is useful to highlight the individual interdependencies once again.
 
Cost and Time
 
The relationship between cost and time can be easily understood by examining examples from daily life. For example, this is why we pay more for an express postal delivery (less time for a higher price) than for a standard delivery. This is exactly how things work in project management. Conflicts between time and cost often arise during the final phase of the project or before a milestone is supposed to be reached. In these situations when time is limited and deadlines need to be met, the question always arises concerning whether there is any budget available to deploy more workers on the construction site to make up the delay, or whether it is possible to change something relating to the target date.
 
Quality and Time
 
The project may include an especially tricky component or perhaps even an artistic element, such as a carved open staircase in a foyer, a highly sensitive engineering room or a stained glass window that is located in a prominent position. In these cases, a detailed plan usually needs to be developed. All other contract work sections also need to take into account the unusual aspects of the project and react accordingly. Specifically in the case of complex installations it often transpires that the project is not completed on schedule because a specialist office requires more time than was originally planned, or because unexpected problems have arisen due to unusual circumstances. Conflicts can arise here between the planned timeline and the accuracy of the detail, or more specifically the quality of the planning and the implementation of the project. The project management team needs to work closely with the client, highlight all possible alternatives and reach decisions quickly.
 
Quality and Costs
 
Problems can arise if the budget starts to run out. All the components that have been scheduled in to complete the project and the amount of resource that is still available are all known. In this type of situation, the project manager needs to decide whether the aim will be to either plan to complete the project using cheaper materials within budget, or whether quality is more important and the budget must therefore be increased.
 
Conclusion
 
In each conflict situation a decision must be reached that will favour one or another of the factors in the Magic Triangle. The project manager reaches this decision in consultation with the client. The project manager always needs to consider that the project must achieve optimum success and must also highlight targeted and reasonable alternatives.

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