← Go Back

The foundation of project management involves adaptation. The ability to adapt requires a refined and skilled way of coping. Managing a project effectively means adjusting to project restraints and seeing the process through. The capacity to cope with challenges is truly what defines a successful project manager.

What are Project Constraints?

Projects are entirely resource dependent and when any component in a project is lacking, it’s considered a “constraint.” To complete a project in a timely fashion, within budget and as needed, project management constraints must be addressed before they become a problem.

In order to recognize any constraints in the pipeline, a project manager should have the following resources available at all times. If any of these are lacking, then constraint has become an issue:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Labor
  • Materials
  • Equipment
  • Tools
  • Expertise
  • Skills
  • Commitment
  • Any related requirements


The worst move a project manager can make is to ignore constraints—as losing any of these resources can lead to total project failure. To address these limitations, a PM must have the proper skills and training to know what to do.

The Right Tools

Much like any task, coping with project restraints means acquiring a tool kit early on. Understanding the best tips and tricks on ways to dodge disaster will help a project manager to be prepared for all situations. The following are some of the best tried and true methods for PMs to win their battle against project constraints:

Define the Issue

A PM can take no further step until they truly understand which lack of resource is causing the constraint. There are many different factors that can cause a constraint but here are the three most common:

  • Time: Whenever a project has an enforced deadline, such as a scheduled event, this can be considered a time constraint. Tasks can be shifted within a project but the due date is essential and must be met for the project to be considered successful.
  • Budget: A constraint on money limits the team from acquiring additional resources necessary to complete the project. Budget can potentially limit the scope of the project too.
  • Quality: This is a restriction created by the specifications of the product/service. Usually, if quality is seen as a constraint, one of the other two (time or budget) has already become an issue.

Once all the constraints in a project have been identified, a project manager can apply the best methods to address it. Some constraints may not be fully worked through but if they are identified first, the right tools can be used to yield the best possible outcome.

Work Breakdown Structure

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is part of project management best practices and is much like a project roadmap for the project manager. The WBS organizes and lists the project tasks in detail, as well as schedules and team members. The accuracy of the WBS and how the project manager manages the activities within them is what determines the success of the project.

Activities that come up within a project that are not listed on the WBS can be considered “out of scope” and a project constraint. Therefore, it is best to create a unique WBS for each project rather than using a template. This makes it easier to recognize project-specific constraints.

Measure Performance

Throughout the lifecycle of a project, the project manager should be continuously scanning the horizon for constraints by measuring the performance of their resources. The best way for measuring efficiency is by establishing what is known as a key performance indicator (KPI). KPIs can include measuring any of the following within a project:

  • Schedule
  • Project completion
  • Development backlog
  • Labor costs
  • Resource allocation

The list of KPIs should ultimately be defined by the needs of the project and can also change throughout the lifecycle. Once performance measures are established and actual efficiency is documented, the project manager can then make a move to correct the problem.

Implement Controls

Implementing controls is the final step in tending to project management constraints. Setting standards and best practices that are project-specific is the best way to keep team members engaged and on board. This can include everything from setting deadlines to developing budgets and reallocating resources. How a project manager decides to handle poor performance will help define the success of the project.

Many elements make up the industry of project management but the key term is “management.” A professional PM should have the ability to not only predict problems before they arise, but the skills to face them head on and establish standards to ensure they do not happen again. This is what ultimately creates a successful project outcome and a highly skilled project manager.