Project Management 101

29 Jan 2018

Published in: Blog

Managing Time, Cost and Quality

No matter what project you are managing (scale, sector, industry, etc.), there are some basic, foundational principles underpinning them. One of these is managing Cost, Quality, and Time.

Although this may appear basic, it is astounding how many projects fail to manage this ‘terrible trio’, despite being staffed by experienced professionals.

The Terrible Trio

Before we get into HOW to manage these three dimensions, let us recap what we mean:

  • TIME - Generally speaking, this is the timescale or duration of the project
  • COST - This is the budget set aside for delivering the project
  • QUALITY - This is the scope of the project. It can refer to both breadth (e.g. how much) as well as depth (e.g. how complex)

The 3 Dimensions

In all project settings, you are looking to achieve a balance between Time, Cost, and Quality, appropriate to the type of change you are trying to implement.  

For example, if you are building a new Nuclear Power Station, you would probably prioritise QUALITY over TIME or COST. However, if you are implementing a new IT system, the balance between all three might be equal.

The challenge for projects and companies implementing change is to understand the relative (separate) importance of TIME, COST and QUALITY and mentioning that balance. 


As often happens in a project, unforeseen issues arise that cause an imbalance in the TIME, COST and QUALITY, and the task of the project manager and project team is to respond appropriately. But how?

Well, depending on what is most important (or least flexible) in this trio, your reaction will be different. Here are a couple of basic scenarios:

  1. TIME & COST are Fixed
    • If you have no flexibility to adjust your project timescale or the budget, then logically you have to look at QUALITY to make sufficient compromises. This often happens in IT projects when an unforeseen technical complication arises. In such cases, the specification of the new system is ‘simplified’ to allow the remaining work to be completed on time, without need for a cost increase. This scenario is one of the most common. 
  2. COST & QUALITY are Fixed
    • With a fixed budget and quality expectations cannot be compromised, then TIME needs to give way: usually in the form of an extension. BEWARE of this situation as a TIME extension often inevitably leads to a cost overrun!
  3. TIME & QUALITY are Fixed
    • If timescales are fixed and the quality (scope) of the project cannot be altered, then clearly COST has to be flexible. In a project setting, this usually results in more resources being employed to get the job done on time. Again, this is another common project scenario.


Hopefully, this has given you some insight into one of the basic concepts of effective project management. If you are new to project management or are an SME embarking on a project and need some advice, please feel free to contact us here at Handy HR, for free, unbiased advice.

Submitted by Ian from Handy HR Services
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