Time Cost Quality

The triple constraint for project management. Projects need to be delivered on time, to budget, and delivering the correct functionality.

The time cost quality relationship is often shown as a Time Cost Quality triangle:

Triangulation of Time Cost and Quality

Triangulation of Time Cost and Quality

Somewhere inside this triangle is your project, being pulled three ways:

  • If you are going over budget you need to slow down or reduce the specification
  • Behind schedule? Then you need to spend more to catch up, or reduce the specification
  • If the project is not delivering what is required, you need to do more, costing more, and taking more time

All three of time cost and quality elements are inter-related. Whichever way you look at it – meeting all three targets can be difficult for a project manager.

Time Cost Quality Meaning

The meaning of Time cost quality derives from the fact that projects have to be delivered on time, to budget, and delivering the correct functionality.

The definition of a project is to achieve some aim, by some deadline, often with limited (financial) resources, and this is why time cost and quality is so important in project management.

Time Cost Quality: Pick Two

One method often used is to try and meet two of these targets, and sacrifice the third. Which two you pick will depend on the project and the situation. You may have to be covert in this practice, as senior managers will be expecting all three objectives to be met,

Asking the management is one way of clarifying the (important) project objectives.

In The News

Today in the news is a great Project Management Triangle example. A product is alleged to have been rushed into production to save costs and maintain a schedule. When the product is an airplane, it might not be a good idea to limit quality whilst concentrating on cost and schedule.

Read the full article here.

Time Cost Quality: Why?

When you are given a project with a set budget, or defined delivery date you need to ask management “why?”

  • Why is the budget £10,000
  • For what reason is the delivery date set to January 31st 2021?
  • Why do we need to create this functionality?

Very often these questions have been answered during a feasibility phase.

If you as the project manager don’t know these answers, then how can you gain the respect of the project team if they ask the same questions?

Of course, occasionally (poor) senior managers may set arbitrary targets – and finding this out is vital!

When you have the answers to your questions – ask management which is most important. (Allowing you to sacrifice one of the others!)


Project Managers should never accept a project with time cost and functionality objectives without questioning why. The business reasons behind these objectives needs to be understood. Of course, the company is running projects to stay in business, to develop, and to grow. However the project manager cannot deliver miracles, and needs information to ‘balance’ the triangle.

One way of meeting the requirements of the ‘Infernal’ Project Management Triangle is to sacrifice one, in order to meet the other two. However, be aware that senior managers will not be happy with this approach!

Posted On: 6th November 2019

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