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  • Michael Conway

Buy Quality, or Nothing.


If you work in Project Management, especially in the building design and construction market, you have likely heard of the “Golden Triangle”, or “Triple-Constraint”, or even the “Iron Triangle”:

In this 2-D world, the basic idea is that the Quality of a project is constrained by budget (cost), deadlines (time), and features (scope). You can trade between constraints, however changes to one require compensation to another or quality will suffer. The farther you get from the center, the greater constraint will affect another.

For example, if your driving goal is to get a project done quickly (time), then you need to pay the elevated price (cost) for that timeline and reduce your expectation for what needs to get completed (scope).

Maybe you’re getting a website built, but you need it done REALLY cheap (cost)! Well, you’re going to be waiting awhile (time) and don’t expect a whole lot of effort (scope)…

In the new construction commissioning industry, I often see the Golden Triangle evaluation process is implemented when deciding on how a project will be commissioned and who will be selected. The problem is, Commissioning as a process IS Quality Assurance. Quality CANNOT be sacrificed or the commissioning process itself is deemed obsolete. Interestingly, the time component that represents one of the three constraints is typically not a factor in new construction Cx. The commissioning agent does not have the ability to do things faster or slower as they are mostly at the mercy of the time constraints decided by the General Contractors Golden Triangle. Hmm, multiple triangles… a 3-D cosmos of cause and effect?? That’s for another time, back to my original thought…

When Time is removed, there are only 2 constraints which have direct effect on Quality, those being Cost and Scope. If you increase scope, you increase cost, and visa-versa. Back to what I said before, Quality CANNOT be sacrificed or the commissioning process itself is deemed obsolete. SO, what do we do? Let’s relook at that triangle as it relates to a Quality Assurance process.

At GMC Commissioning, we sell on Value, deliver on Quality, and finish with Integrity. Providing optimal value is a balance between scope and cost, and it largely driven by the type of project and the level of Risk if things go sideways. Leaning towards more scope is of value for a highly sustainable project, critical care hospital, data center, or laboratory building, but doesn’t make sense at a 7-11. Scope is the essential component to ensure the commissioning process produces Quality and reduces Risk.

Start with a clearly defined RFP, with input by a thorough and experienced commissioning agent. This will ensure competitive costs without risking Quality. In a competitive bid market where cost is king, if scope is not clearly defined, it is the only way for the commissioning agent to reduce cost and win projects. This unfortunate trend will hurt the integrity of the commissioning industry by reducing quality and increasing risk, the whole reason the process exists. In my discussions with project stakeholders, most have had either a bad experience with a commissioning agent, or no experience at all. In the end, find a commissioning agent that exceeds your expectations, leaves you with a good experience for a fair price, and never let them go.


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