Time, resources, scope, quality

This is an idea I originally encountered in Extreme Programming Explained, by Kent Beck.  They are the four factors governing software development, but really, they apply to many other art forms. Time is the amount of time available for a project. Resources is time and skill creators have, tools, etc. Scope is the amount of work to be done. Quality is the quality of the work.

In practice, the key factors are time, resources, and scope. Two will be controlled, and the third uncontrolled. If the time and resources for a project are fixed, the possible scope is governed by them. If resources and scope are fixed, the time varies, and so forth.

Quality is a special factor – work quality can be sacrificed for short-term gains in the other three, but over the course of a long-running project, sacrificed quality will eventually affect the other three factors as well. In general, it is foolish to sacrifice quality for other gains.

Many project management problems boil down to trying to control all three key factors simultaneously – you will get this much work done, in this much time, with these resources – “stone knives and bearskins”, as Spock once put it.  Because this sort of obsessive control usually arises from a semi-conscious awareness of failure, such projects are doomed, either to outright failure, or partial success, as measured by whomever cares.


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