The Six Constraints of Project Management

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  • 0:02 Project Management Prep
  • 0:45 Constraint Types
  • 1:15 Schedule and Customer…
  • 2:11 Quality and Scope
  • 3:13 Risks and Resources
  • 4:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karen O'Brien

Karen has 14 years of experience in consultancy, including creation of training materials and running courses for IT professionals.

This lesson specifies and explains the six constraints of project management. In addition, the interrelated nature of these constraints is explained by looking at an example.

Project Management Prep

So, you want to manage a project to completion. And possibly even successfully, if you're lucky! Where do you start? How about the most important aspects of project management: project constraints. These are essentially rules that bind you when managing a project. They will determine whether or not the project is successful. Think of them as route directions: they will get you to your destination but may change at any time.

This lesson will identify each constraint, provide a detailed description, and use a sample project to illustrate how each constraint is related to the other. Then you'll be prepared to ask all relevant constraint questions when planning and understand the impact of each constraint.

Constraint Types

The following are the six constraints that are recognized as determining factors in project management:

  • Schedule
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Quality
  • Scope
  • Risk
  • Resources

Let's take a look at an extremely simple project to help us understand the constraints and how they are interrelated. This project requires you to make a trip to the local store for lunch during a work day, while you pay a colleague to man your work station.


The schedule constraint is the time available to deliver a project. In this case, your schedule is that you must return from the store before your colleague returns to their own station.

If the allotted time is overrun (due to traffic, queues at the store, etc.), additional costs will be incurred because your colleague must be paid extra to oversee your station for the additional time. Alternatively the quality, scope, or customer satisfaction of the project may be impacted as your colleague may be unable to remain for the additional time, thus forcing you to return before purchasing the lunch item.

Customer Satisfaction

If you are happy with the end result, you get a good lunch for a good price with no delay and your work station is covered, there's a good chance the customer (you!) will be satisfied.

The satisfaction of the customer is jeopardized when any other project constraint is impacted. For example, you will be dissatisfied if you have to pay more for your lunch than planned or if you are unable to purchase lunch.


Project quality measures how successful and correct the project deliverable is. In this case, it will be considered high if the goal is achieved: i.e., that your lunch is purchased on time without additional cost, and your work station is maintained for the duration of your absence. A change to project quality is likely to impact customer satisfaction.


Scope refers to the features of the project (what the project does and how it does it). This includes the lunch being purchased, driving to a specific local store, and your colleague covering your station. Examples of out of scope features are: cycling to the store, having 2 colleagues take over your station, or buying dinner instead of lunch.

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