I’ve talked with and participated in numerous PMOs who define the iron triangle as Time, Cost and Quality. Stop it! You should never be accepting quality as a trade-off… ever! The third side of the iron triangle is Scope and you should not change that.

I know of people who would argue we’re talking about the quality of the product. In other words, is the product as feature rich as the customer would like. For the purposes of defining the constraints of a project you should never call this trade-off quality. The reason is words have a way of being manipulated, misinterpreted, forgotten, etc. So suddenly what was intended to really address a choice of scope is twisted to become an acceptance of less testing. Now you’re going to have a mess on your hands.

Take for example one of the leading car manufacturers. What if they came out with a statement something like:

“We know the economy’s tough, so we’re going to make sure our cars are affordable by everyone. To do this we’re going to accept lower quality to make them affordable”.

Would you go running off and buy one of these cars? Not likely!

I’m using this analogy as we’re likely all customers of the car manufacturers and can relate very easily. If however, they came out and said to save you money we’re not going to make the car as feature rich would you be interested? For example, what if the car didn’t have cruise control, power windows, air conditioning, etc. It is just a bare-bones car but will be released with no known defects. Now would you be interested? If money was tight for you it’s possible as you would have a car which provides the minimal feature of getting you from point A to point B.

The impact of accepting lower quality is significant to your project, the organization and your customers. Lean principles say we are never to knowingly pass defects downstream. When you do this your project will have added cost as you work around the issue, or have to fix it only after layering a lot more on top of it. The organization will increasingly become burdened by the amount of technical debt you are amassing. The customer will be frustrated not just by a poor product, but the long term costs of further changes to the product.

The project failures in the IT industry are staggering! We need to change this paradigm and do something we can all be proud of! As leaders on our teams it’s our job to lead and motivate the team towards success. It’s one of your many responsibilities to give the team vision and direction. Why give them the impression you’re willing to make a trade-off which is only going to add to bad statistics?!? I guarantee on some future project it will come back to bite you if you continue to say you’re willing to trade off quality.

Building Great Teams

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