The 6 Project Constraints

The 6 Project Constraints

Occasionally, Workfront will discover an article or an author that aligns with our internal mission of making work more effective and enjoyable. We're thrilled to have Shivshanker Shenoy as a guest blogger on Talking Work and hope you find his content as beneficial as we do.

If you asked any seasoned project manager about the most challenging part of project management, most likely the answer would be "managing the constraints." Or something close enough to that.

A major part of your project management effort goes into managing constraints.

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Have you read about the six-legged robot by NASA to make human outposts on Mars?

What do you think would happen if even one of these legs did not work as designed, or got stuck in the martian terrain?

In simpler words, the robot would not function to the extent that it is supposed to. This will impact the Mars mission.

The six project constraints are similar to this six-legged robot. Each leg represents a constraint and an issue with any of the constraints may impact the entire project.

6 project constraints

Figure 1: The six project constraints.

The Classic Constraint Triangle

These constraints are interrelated, so a strain on one of the constraints will affect one or more of the other constraints.

The image below shows the classic triple constraint triangle.

3 core project constraints

Figure 2: Impact on the scope, time, or cost may have an impact on the quality of the deliverable.

Imagine pinching any of the edges of this triangle. What would happen to the other two points? They get stretched. And the area of the triangle gets skewed.

The same thing happens when any of these three core constraints—scope, time (in other words, schedule), and cost—are strained. Each will influence the other two and may result in poor quality of the product.

How Project Constraints are Interrelated

All of the six constraints influence each other in that any one getting affected impacts one or more of the rest.

Some examples of how constraints are related:

  • If necessary resources are not available, time to deliver will increase. This may also increase project cost, because alternate resources, if available, may be more expensive than planned.
  • If QA team finds that the quality of a deliverable is going bad, more resources may be required. This increases the cost—for additional resources—and effort to fix the faulty deliverable. This will also increase the time to deliver.
  • If scope creep happens on the project, it will result in increased time, cost, resources, and potentially reduced quality. And thus increased risk on delivery.

Managing six constraints is as much of an art as a science. They will test the mettle of the project manager. But do not worry, with the knowledge of PMBOK® processes and some support from your organization (PMO), managing these constraints should be a challenge that you enjoy.

Shivshanker Shenoy is the author of provides the best of the "tools and techniques" you need to pass the PMP certification exam. It includes a complete and comprehensive study guide for working professionals who are short of time and need simple-to-understand resources for the PMP certification exam.

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