Introducing “Critical Chain Project Management”

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Critical Chain - photo by Ella's Dad via Flickr

Critical Chain - photo by Ella's Dad via Flickr

CCPM. Have you heard about this project management framework? What about the concept of critical path? If you have ever been exposed to project schedules, the latter would probably ring a bell. Critical path is the shortest distance to project acceptance and completion. If the project has 10 tasks to deliver, and 8 of them are critical for acceptance, the critical path will comprise of those 8 tasks. Makes sense?

CCPM is a framework build around the critical path concept. To me it is an effective scheduling technique that enables project managers to truly plan a project instead of merely stringing tasks together to an end date. True planning calls fot a great deal of thought that should go into executing a project and steer it towards success. But to do that, we need to first understand project failure.

Why do projects fail? According to Allan Elder’s whitepaper (link below), most projects fail to meet deadlines on time, on budget, and on scope (OTOBOS) due to the following 5 reasons or diseases of project management:

(a) We are victims of “Bad Multi-Tasking“. In short, we have too many tasks on our plate mainly due to a lack of planning from the task assignor/delegator – your Manager or ‘You, Inc.’ – thus leading to bad task prioritization to procrastination to burnout.

(b) Parkinson’s Law i.e. Work expands so as to fill the time available for completion. The safety we’ve built into our estimates with an intent to avoid the worst case scenario somehow transforms into being our best case scenario. And we are not incentivized to do otherwise.

(c) The ‘Student Syndrome’ is in us and we cannot escape it. So, lets accept the fact that due to the above 2 reasons we are not going to work on that task until the 11th hour – the time we need just enough to complete the task and meet the deadline. We dont know how we do it but we do.

(d) Task Dependency for the wrong reasons. Project completion is dependent on all its tasks being completed on time (task completion date) and on budget (resource availability) but when tasks are integrated, projects get penalized due to time wastage and resources being under-committed.

(e) Task Completion ? Task Delivery. We tend ignore those sneaky little unplanned and unforeseen events that cause delays in the delivery of completed tasks. Project progress is measured based on the tasks completed and not task hand-offs.

CCPM is based on the ‘Theory Of Constraints’ methodologies and is said to have proven a high rate of project success when implemented right. I have not tried it out yet but am in the process on learning how to. Walk with me on this critical path to success and we’ll find out how to keep our projects OTOBOS.

In my follow-up to this post, I will dive more into how CCPM works. Meanwhile, please do read “The Five Diseases of Project Mangement” (PDF) to understand the above reasons in detail. This whitepaper is a keeper.