Plan and manage projects that yield booming results is critical to modern organizations.
To achieve that, project managers need to implement successfully the tools and techniques of critical chain project management. Critical chain project management is the sequence of dependent events that prevents a project from completing in a shorter interval recognizing resource as well as activity dependencies.
Critical chain project management identifies good activity time estimates and assigns available resources to activities. Addressing the problems of resources limitations and human behavior as factors that might prevent a project from being completed on time, critical chain project management (1) improves time estimates for activities, (2) redefines the concept of a critical path to include resources, (3) incorporates time buffers in the project work breakdown schedule, (4) schedules activities according to the latest start schedule and (5) controls the behavioral dimensions of project management.
Critical chain project management is closely associated to the Theory of Constraints, which is a systematic management approach, focusing on actively managing the constraints that impede a firm’s progress towards the maximization of total value-added funds. In this context, critical chain project management requires ideal scenarios, flexibility, responsiveness, practical ideas, and simple methods to use information effectively through understandable software solutions.
(1) Improving time estimates for activities
Critical chain project management approach asks two types of activity time estimates: a) an assessment of a low risk time estimate for the project activity, which would be akin to the pessimistic time estimate and b) an assessment for the most likely time estimate assuming everything would go as hoped and people devoted 100 percent of their time once they started on the activity.
(2) Redefining the concept of a critical path to include resources
Resource constraints are usually people; however they may also be physical limitations or policies. Critical chain project management expands the critical path by recognizing resource limitations and provides the focus for applying project time buffers.
(3) Incorporating time buffers in the project work breakdown schedule
Once the critical chain and all of the paths feeding the critical chain are identified time buffers can be added to the network to protect the critical chain. The difference in activity time estimates between pessimistic time estimate and most likely time estimate described in (1) is used to develop feeder buffers at the point where each feeder interfaces with the critical chain. Similarly, at the end of the critical chain, a project buffer is added, while the time buffers are being used as activities in the project network. The advantage of critical chain project management approach in this case is that the time buffers, which are an accumulation of the slack along a path, are isolated places in the network rather than at individual activities as activity slack. So, management can focus on these time buffers to monitor project progress.
(4) Scheduling activities according to the latest start schedule
Scheduling activities according to the latest start schedule has the advantage of delaying project cash outflows. The feeder and project time buffers provide the protection that project managers need to avoid delays because of activities taking longer than the most likely time estimate.
(5) Controlling the behavioral dimensions
Critical chain project management is based on common sense and reality in regards to how people would work most effectively when undertaking a project. The most common problem encountered in project management is project uncertainty deriving from human resources. The behavioral dimension of project management affects both schedule and performance.
In order to control these behavioral aspects, project managers need primarily to minimize the practice of multitasking because it affects the estimates of the activity times and can delay projects. In addition, critical chain project management develops an environment where date-driven behavior is eliminated. This means that employees are not criticized for time overruns if they started the activity on schedule, worked 100 percent on it and passed on the output as soon as it was ready. Secondly, project managers need to set critical buffer levels that when reached they initiate action to remedy any problems. Finally, new projects should be added and scheduled only on the basis of the load on the critical resources.
In conclusion, what we need to achieve with project management is to manage for the uncertainty involved in a project undertaking. Critical chain project management helps managers to decrease stress on a project team, reduce cost and scheduling over-runs, control project resources effectively, and finish projects that meet or exceed expectations through planning, measuring and execution.