Critical Chain Project Management - Module 1

Problems of traditional project management


In this first episode of a 4-video series about Critical Chain Project Management, Philip Marris reviews the recurring problems encountered with traditional project management.

CCPM (Critical Chain Project Management) is an attempt to solve several difficulties like:


1) The lack of focus and poor prioritizing rules,

2) The tyranny of dates ("Deadlines"), and thus the safety margins added to the duration of the tasks,

3) The different behaviors that waste safety margins (Student syndrome, Parkinson's law, etc.),

4) Exessively detailed schedules and poorly defined deliverables and responsibilities, Etc ...


 This video series is a condensed version of the Critical Chain trainings Marris Consulting regularly organizes. 

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Problems of traditional project management


To understand the relevance of the critical chain solution, we must remember the origins of project management. In the 1950s, the first approaches to project management emerged: the critical path management and pert: program evaluation technique, which were relevant at the time, but they have not aged well. Levels of requirements in the field of projects are much higher today, the time available to complete a project, the resources made available to achieve them, are much more constrained than in the past. Trying to stay in the traditional mode of production in today's environment is to ask everyone to run where they used to walk, and in this acceleration all organizations become a real cacophony.

We have to reinvent our approach to projects, it is more and more difficult to finish projects on time, and budgets are being exceeded more and more, we are trying to increase the efficiency of project management, and one of the ways to do it is to detail more and more tasks.

One of the excesses encountered is to try to deal in detail with a project that will last two months or two years. It will for example include 1000 or 10000 tasks, which sometimes are scheduled for a duration of a day or less, and during the execution we will try to follow the progress of all these tasks, are they finished, did everything go well? So there is going to be a big project administration organization, which can consume 10%, 20%, 30% of the resources to follow the project but not to contribute, which will increase the costs, and will not allow, like you will see further, to finish on time.

Through this series of videos, you will understand the results of the critical chain: to finish these projects twice as fast, to do twice as many projects a year, or to be twice as efficient in the realization of projects, and to finish all these projects on time. But beyond these quantitative results there is a significant qualitative impact: to improve the working conditions in the teams working on the projects. Indeed today the teams that are involved in the projects are often those who suffer the most, in which we find the most difficult situations, burnout, ... etc.

The Critical Chain significantly improves quality of life and allows companies to spend more time on important topics such as improving skills, capabilities, standards, and so on.

Today the projects are broken down into different elementary tasks and we start from the idea that if we can make sure that each of these elementary tasks ends on time the project will finish on time. For each task, a safety margin is therefore included, for example a task whose expected duration is two days, two days of safety margin are added to ensure that it is completed on time, and yet it is not a success.

Why with all these margins projects end nevertheless late? It is precisely because we have tried to make sure that each task finishes on time that the project as a whole will finish late. The leitmotiv of project management is management by the dates and the commitment periods at the task level.

The technique that appears in the certifications of the PMI "project management institute" to determine the duration of a task is the "pert" method: the actors of a task are asked to identify three times, the pessimistic time, the optimistic time and the probable time and from there we determine the weighted median duration that is to say we have 50% probability to take more time than this duration and 50% probability to go faster. This technique is theoretical, it is very rarely encountered in reality because it does not survive managerial behavior. It is right, but it assumes that the person is working in a completely neutral environment at the managerial and political level.

To understand the difference between the theoretical duration of a task and the actual duration, take the explanation given by Eliyahu Goldratt in his book "Critical Chain". He mentions two different syndromes:

-        The student syndrome makes that even if one gave a consequent duration to carry out a task with a safety margin, since one does not begin right away one loses a large part of this security.

-        Parkinson's law: It says the work will spread out to consume all the available time.

With behaviors such as these, advances disappear and delays can accumulate across the system, all installed margin are useless, and this is how projects will end late.

Another aspect of project management is perhaps the main scourge of non-performance: multitasking. There are different ways to explain it but one of them is that we should, with a project management software, do a leveling of tasks, ie ensure in the schedules that a person never has two things to do at a time. In reality it is very rarely done, we will assume that the various actors will get by on the ground. But they will be torn apart by the different projects. We do regular audits of people's actual behaviors in these environments so it is not uncommon to find that the person will ultimately change tasks 60 times in the day, five minutes at a time on a project before move to another. This behavior is destructive of performance.

This is the environment in which the different actors operate, an extremely unhealthy world. All this mode of project management is based on an idea that seemed initially just: if you want to finish your projects on time you have to make sure that each of the elementary tasks constituting the projects also finish on time. Even if in theory it is possible in reality we arrive exactly at the opposite results.

Before continuing and explaining how the critical chain works, know that the different elements explained by the project management institute on how to handle problems are correct, we do not question what is described in this body of good practice. on the contrary, you will see that the critical chain finally allows you to implement and correctly use all that is said in this corpus

We looked at the problems of traditional project management, we will now see how the critical chain allows us to regain control and make sure that these projects go faster, that we do more, while finishing them all on time.

Marris Consulting, expert in Theory of Constraints & Critical Chain Project Management


Marris Consulting is an expert in the Theory of Constraints (ToC) and Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM). As industry consultants, we are focused on helping process and manufacturing industries reach their highest levels of performance by using Constraints Management  combined with Lean and Six Sigma. We also use Critical Chain Project Management which we sometimes combine with Lean engineering to improve project performance. If you are unsure about the actions which need to be implemented to improve operational efficiency, our industrial management consultants can also conduct a performance audit. Furthermore, our experts host numerous Theory of Constraints (ToC), lean and project management training sessions throughout the year.

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About Marris Consulting

Marris Consulting is an industry consulting and training company specialized in the Theory of Constraints (ToC) and Critical Chain Project Management. We focus on improving the performance of manufacturing and process industries by using Constraints Management combined with Lean and Six Sigma. To boost project performance, we also use Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM), which we sometimes combine with Lean Engineering. Our 2-day performance audits, our performance consulting services and our project management, Lean, ToC & CCPM training by our industry consultants offer a wide range of solutions to help our clients around the world reach the highest possible levels of performance.

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