Critical Chain Project Management - Module 4

Continuous Improvement and CCPM


In this fourth and last episode of a 4-video series about Critical Chain Project Management, Philip Marris explains how CCPM enables Continuous Improvement.

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In this last video we discuss continuous improvement in a world of Critical Chain projects. After having planned and executed in Critical Chain we already obtain notorious improvement of the performances, in particular to realize its projects twice as fast, to do twice more per year and to finish them almost all on time. We could be satisfied. But in the end it's just the basics to boost continuous improvement in projects.

For this, the first step is to list the causes of consumption of the project buffer during project execution. Why did the tasks take longer to complete than the focused time on plans? From the collected data it is necessary to build a Pareto of the causes of consumption of the project buffer. The result is very different from what we could have found before the implementation of the Critical Chain since we removed the main noise of managerial inconsistencies (change of priority ...). This Pareto shows what now prevents the company from doing even more projects. Often the first causes are not the ones you would have imagined.

Here are some examples of buffer consumption that we have seen with our customers.

After implementation of the Critical Chain, the first Pareto created by our client gives as the first cause of buffer consumption: "unidentified tasks", understand tasks that had to be done but that were not planned because not identified upstream of the project. These are tasks that should not have been forgotten. To remove this cause of buffer consumption a solution is the creation of a standard plan according to the types of projects. It seems that there never was the idea or that it was abandoned that there may be some repetitiveness in projects, even in the development of new products. We must therefore seek to industrialize projects, throught standards that ensure that we haven't forgotten tasks. Moreover this standard must be able to be improved as the projects are unfolded.

At the same customer, the second cause of buffer consumption was "incomplete deliverables," which means that resources could not start because they did not have all the information needed to start. To solve this problem it is sometimes possible to add the list of deliverables to the tasks of a project and to consider the task completed only when all the deliverables are ready.

The case of another client showed that project buffers were massively consumed because of "unfunded or unidentified risks", the company had a real problem of risk management. In a risk analysis, it is necessary not only to fund the risks financially but also in time. Our Advanced Critical Chain training will help you understand how to integrate this provision into the planning. This example reminds us that risk management is useful if not mandatory to succeed in its projects.

An important point for continuous improvement is to know where is the Critical Chain, it is necessary to know by what tasks the Critical Chain passes. So far we have seen that the Critical Chain was calculated, deduced from the schedule created. But, and this is one of the strong points of Marris Consulting, the Theory of Constraints, if we want to apply it in a mature way, does not just concern the identification of the constraint (or the Critical Chain), we must try to choose the least bad constraint of his system. How to do this in the world of projects ?

Let's take an example. It is possible to have a Critical Chain that is in the wrong place. The world of new product developments suffers from the IT, computer, electronic aspect of product evolution. We often see that the software part of the projects is outsourced and that it will take more time than the hardware development within the company. The Critical Chain is essentially external to the company, how to control it in this case? We must try to avoid this situation. One solution may be to create a partnership with the strategic subcontractors of the projects and to involve them in the Critical Chain approach.

It is therefore better not just to calculate the Critical Chain but to choose it. But this is done as you improve the performance of your project management.

It should not be forgotten that despite these project buffers consumptions, the Critical Chain has made it possible to finish them on time. Continuous improvement and analysis of the causes of consumption will allow you to finish them even faster. In particular, the size of the buffer may be reduced as certain causes of consumption are eliminated.

The Critical Chain allows you to take back control of your projects, but it doesn't guarantee that they are good projects. We can use the Critical Chain to quickly develop, on time, under good budget conditions, a very bad product.

We must therefore complete the Critical Chain with other tools, other philosophies such as Lean Engineering, Design For Six Sigma, Agile methods ... Lean Engineering for example is little used in the world while Lean Manufacturing is very popular in production. But to apply Lean Engineering requires good working conditions and time, which can be provided through the Critical Chain.

The Critical Chain can do remarkable things, but it does not treat everything, it must be supplemented by other ideas. However, this is the starting point for getting the time and availability needed for these other ideas.

We must not stop to just implement the Critical Chain, this is only the beginning of excellence.

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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