Project Flexibility Matrix


Quick Summary
A simple but effective tool that helps guide tradeoff discussions on Scope, Resources and Schedule.


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What this is

A Project Flexibility Matrix is a simple but effective tool that helps guide tradeoff discussions on Scope, Resources and Schedule during project definition and planning work. The matrix is used to clarify what constraints are flexible and what project goals must be held.

NOTE for those on small projects: even if your project is only a few weeks long and seems totally straightforward, this simple one-page tool helps you clarify what's most important with the people who want the outcome of your project. If typical issues arise-and the shorter the project, the easier it is to throw the timeline way off due to one issue-the priority clarity just from using this tool up front will help you make choices on how to proceed. It is first and foremost a clarification and communication tool.


Why it's useful

This simple matrix helps drive a top-level clarification process at the front end of a project. It forces tradeoff discussions to occur in the project team and with the project sponsor and stakeholders. Completing the Project Flexibility Matrix early gives the team a tool for making tradeoff decisions once typical resource, time, or cost constraints arise during detailed requirements and planning work. It is also a reference point downstream for managing change.

A summary of its benefits:

  • Helps to focus decision-making early in the project.
  • Establishes agreement on priorities across all functional groups.
  • Guides tradeoff discussions throughout the project.

How to use it

  1. Use the matrix in early tradeoff discussions to frame the dialog and to drive the discussion on setting priorities.
  2. The project team discusses the tradeoffs by placing a checkmark or sticky note in the appropriate cell of the matrix with only one choice per column. In practice the choices move around quite a bit as different perspectives are presented and championed.
  3. As the project vision becomes firm, the matrix becomes stable and records the tradeoffs in a simple to understand format.
  4. Later in the project, when changes are proposed, the matrix will help re-orient these change discussions with the basic tradeoff decisions that were made early in the project.

It is important to get this priority tradeoff established and agreed to by all stakeholders early in the project. Trying to negotiate this tradeoff after the project is launched is often difficult or impossible. Once people solidify their view of the tradeoff with scheduled tasks and named resources, the effort to change these tradeoffs becomes much more difficult.


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