Critical Chain Project Management
LOS GATOS, Calif. Nov 20th, 2015 -Do you critical chain PM? Don't know? What is it, you say? Well, critical chain project management, as defined by that #1 source on the internet (tongue firmly implanted in check even though it is my 2010's version of the old World Book Encyclopedia at my parent's house) is “a method of planning and managing projects that emphasizes the resources (people, equipment, physical space) required to execute project tasks. It differs from more traditional methods that derive from critical path and PERT algorithms, which emphasize task order and rigid scheduling. A critical chain project network strives to keep resources leveled, and requires that they be flexible in start times.”
Oh boy...good old resource leveling. I haven't screwed that up since I was putting together a 7,500 task project management schedule for a $50 million government program my company was bidding on and I forgot to allow for holidays. I will NEVER do that again...big lesson learned!
Critical chain is NOT critical path
So we've established that critical chain is not the same as critical path...which most or all of us are fairly familiar with...whether we really pay any attention to the critical path is another matter. Most of us do not worry too much about it till something starts to go wrong on the project.
Critical chain project management, is actually an alternative to critical path analysis. Some key features that are part of critical chain that help distinguish it from critical path:
With traditional project management, delays in tasks are usually passed on to the entire project. However, the benefits of tasks finishing early rarely benefit the current project. Those early completions are rarely ever passed along to tasks in the same current project.
But with critical chain project management all of the resources on a project are given clear and aligned priorities that relate to the general health of the critical chain relative to its associated buffer and the project as a whole. A resource with more than one task open is then assigned to complete any task jeopardizing any project's critical chain before completing any feeding path task.
Summary / call for input
Critical chain project management. Think of it as having the resources available when you need them. And making sure that is an absolute priority. I was brought in to consult with a client once solely because they could never get a handle on that concept. Their CEO was out selling their services all over the world, but back home in Las Vegas they didn't have enough man power to lead all the projects he was starting and they didn't have the equipment available when all of these new customers were needing their work done. And these were critical projects – big dollar projects like equipment for stunts in major motion pictures...think “Spiderman” big. We got through it – but it took some work, relearning, resource pool planning and tool searching.