Project management is all about managing project drift. Of course, you need to predict and prevent deviation - or drift -, but when it crops up, you need to handle it properly.

There are only four available deviation axes:

  • Quality
  • Cost
  • Planning
  • Scope

Deviating from quality is a deal-breaker 💀

Nobody wants - and you shouldn't - lessen the quality to get your project out of a tricky situation. If you do so, it will affect your reputation and cost you more in the long run.

Drifting on cost is profitable neither for your business neither for your client.

You don't want to explain to your boss (or client) the project is costing more than expected. This systematically engages stakeholders in unpleasant discussions about who is going to pay.

⚠️ Spoiler alert: Everyone will have a good reason not to pay and will look for someone to blame. It's always you (or the sales guy).

Planning and scope drifting? Choose!

Both can be - and should be - acceptable as there are no better alternatives.

When a project goes down the drain, as a project manager, your job is to make sure that the stakeholders accept this state of affairs and choose the best solution to remove constraints.

There can be only one axis to drift along. If you deliver late and not within the agreed scope, then you have mismanaged your project 👎.

Preparation and inception are critical.

As a project manager, acknowledge that it is often too late to think about deviation possibilities at the time the project drifts.

In the pre-sales or pre-project phase, if you agree to be "Agile" is then it means everyone is complying, when it goes sour, to drift along the scope axis.

In Agile, team size and sprint lenght are fixed. That's means cost and planning are not an option for deviation.

If you're asking a supplier to commit contractually ✍️ based on an exhaustive set of written specifications, then you are requesting them not to deviate in scope.

Not every stakeholder understands this. You have to raise awareness and manage expectations at each single possible touch point (steering committee, progress reviews, demo days...) from the pre-project phase to the delivery.


Adapt your project management style to this framework. Customer satisfaction will skyrocket 🚀 and will be able to ask your boss for a raise 💰.