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Section: 2 Organizational Planning: Iden... > The Fourth Constraint: Relationships - Pg. 44

44 Chapter 10. The Fourth Constraint: Relationships Russ Volckmann; Joan Knutson, Contributing Editor PM Network 15 (May 1997) Schedule, budget, and quality: these are the critical variables in project management, often referred to as the triple constraints. The core task in project management is to manage each of them, as well as the implications of the effect each will have on the others. If you decrease budget, there will be an impact on the schedule and/or on the quality of the product. When the budget is decreased or the schedule is tightened, some functionality will probably have to be sacrificed. In the same way, effective relationships are critical to the success of our projects. The quality of relationships within a project and between a project organization and its external stakeholders will be manifested in the overall performance of the project. What constitutes an effective relationship? That's a bit harder to define. We know that in managing conflicts, resolution is not always the best goal. Some conflicts are better avoided so that work can continue or that individuals can continue to work together on a bounded task. So it is with relation- ships. Relationships are dynamic and unpredictable. As a consequence, we must focus on how we sustain workable relationships over time, not on living up to some predetermined model of what constitutes a "good" or "bad" relationship. Each project exists in a different cultural context, with a different set of core values, norms, and expectations. The qualities of relationships important to those cultures and for that particular project will vary. In one project, sharing information widely within the project may be important, but sharing information with the customer may be avoided. In another project, sharing information with the cus- tomer may be critical, since his input to changing conditions may be critical for the success of the project. Within the same project, the need for sharing may vary across phases. A Cautionary Tale A few years ago I consulted on the startup phase of a software development project. We assisted the project executives and project managers in gaining some agreement on their approach to the project. They chose a strong team strategy, which included collocation of technical and user staff, joint sponsorship from the user and technical branches of the organization, and joint project man- agement (a user and technical project manager). Not long after our work was completed things began to deteriorate. This project that started with such high hopes ended up costing the parent company several millions of dollars, with no useful product. The leaders of that project are no longer with the company. The project was killed, and a new approach to meeting the organization's needs was undertaken under new leadership. Luckily, there are lessons to be learned from failure. Here are some insights that this project provided into the importance of relationships in project management.