You can only have two sides

Brute force is never the answer. If projects getting to the point where “all hands on deck” is the order of the day, then better processes have failed. This results in disgruntled team members, a higher margin for error on tasks and a higher employee turnover rate. None of these are good for a project/team/organization.

Observe the image to the right. This diagram has been accepted as a standard approach to client management for decades.

“You can have any two sides.” the saying goes. The logic behind this is that in order to manage unrealistic expectations, sacrifices must be made. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the sacrifice is often suffered by the implementation team when the client (or management) decides having two out of three sides of the triangle simply isn’t acceptable.

There is a better way. Teamwork.

You can have it all

Teamwork Projects is about more than managing tasks. It’s about managing workload, forecasting resources, predicting needs well in advance of panic mode and team suffering. Standard Project Management Institute (PMI) practices dictate that a project’s effort can be equally divided between three key areas: planning, developing, deploying. This results in the triangle below.

Productivity in Teamwork

What’s interesting to note is that even though the amount of time spent on each phase of the project is the same, the level of effort decreases as the project progresses.

Phase I – Planning

What goes in is what comes out. Without adequate planning during the Initiation Phase of a project, how can proper execution be expected? Define the project; not just from 10,000 feet, but down to every minute detail that can be anticipated. Task templates are very handy for this as most projects utilize the same standardized processes across projects.

With proper planning out of the way, the development phase runs much more smoothly, resulting in minimal project interrupts. Quality assurance should be a breeze at this point as the executed tasks match the planned details perfectly.

Sadly, when faced with competitive budgets, the first thing to be cut to reduce costs is planning. “We’ll figure it out along the way.” say the executive cowboys. Yeehaw!

Phase II – Execution

Regardless of industry, this phase refers to the progress of the work being done on the project; its development. This is the phase that seems to be never-ending, and often that is because organizations get stuck in the cycle of repeating phase I and phase III within phase II. This is where 80% of the modern workforce exists, weighing the security of a paycheque vs the ever-growing stress of falling further and further behind at work. Those that do the work need support from people and systems to make the time spent more efficient. Period.

Phase III – QA & Finalization

The work has been done. Now it’s time to verify quality on deliverables, hand-off to the client, wrap up the project, and move on.


This is the other area that tends to get cut during cost reduction to land the project in the first place. No planning, no quality assurance. What could possibly go wrong? Tasks having to be redone two, three, ten times until it’s “right”, with right being a loosely defined moving target. How much more wrong does it need to be before things change?

The simple math of five-thirds

Let’s examine this common scenario. Planning is mostly cut from the budget. Quality Assurance is mostly cut from the budget. That leaves loosely one-third of the proposed three-thirds left for the project. The irony is that the rule of thirds will always apply even when it’s ignored.


Without planning, tasks don’t get done right the first time. Now planning has to occur to figure out what when wrong, what is actually expected, when it will be delivered and how. That is an entire duplication of execution effort. Multiply that by every task and the Planning phase and Development phase just crept back into project scope even the work was already done once. How was it found out the task didn’t get done right? It was either caught internally by a random stakeholder, or worse yet, the client. Suddenly, quality assurance becomes important for every task, and that entire Deployment phase has to be defined.


That two-thirds that was originally thought to be saved? It’s now back after all the work has been done. Three-thirds became five-thirds. The project is now two-thirds over schedule and budget. That doesn’t seem profitable or efficient for the client, the team, or the company.


When a project is properly budgeted, with equal time given to planning, development and deployment, a proper schedule can be put into place. With a proper schedule comes a reasonable and balanced workload to get the work done. With a reasonable schedule and workload comes proper resource forecasting. With proper forecasting comes higher revenues and happier team members.

All because of the rule of thirds and the ease of leveraging Teamwork.