How Does a Good Project Manager Differ from a Bad One?

March 13, 2024 · 5 min read

In our previous article, we defined what a project is. Now, let's try to understand what project management entails and how a good project manager differs from a bad one.

The Project Management Triangle: Time, Cost, Scope

Project management is often described as the skill of hitting a triangle target which consists of time, cost, and scope of work. A project manager is someone who, under high uncertainty, can bring a project to completion without exceeding the pre-agreed schedule and budget, while delivering everything that was promised. 

project management triangle

There's a specific geometric sense in this triangle: changing one side inevitably affects at least one other. In practical terms: you've agreed to build a ten-floor brick building within a year for one million dollars, and then the client says it has to be done in six months instead. You cannot alter just the schedule without making changes in cost or scope of work. You may offer to increase the budget or decrease the number of floors.

Beyond the Triangle: Stakeholder Satisfaction

A good project manager is someone who can hit this triangle. This is an almost accurate definition, but not 100%. An important element is missing: the satisfaction of key stakeholders

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For instance, a manager meets the triangle criteria and formally everything is done according to the contract, but the client is dissatisfied with the result as it doesn’t fulfill the goal. Can we consider the project successful? You'll likely agree, no. 

Or a situation where, after working on a project, part of the team resigns due to burnout. Here too, the result is not successful. In this case, the manager might have an illusion of success. But if they considered how much it costs to hire new employees for the next project, not to mention the issues with spreading a bad reputation in the market, they would likely change their opinion. 


In summary, effective project management isn't just about balancing the project's time, cost, and scope. It's equally important to ensure the satisfaction of everyone involved—clients, team members, and company management. This holistic approach defines the difference between a good and a bad project manager.

🔎 Read our next article in this series: “A Brief History of Project Management”

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