critical-chain-project-management

What Is Critical Chain Project Management? The Critical Chain Project Management In A Nutshell

Critical chain project management was created by business management expert Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt in 1997. It is based on the theory of constraints (TOC), a similar methodology also created by Goldratt focusing on the most important limiting factor in achieving a goal. Critical chain project management (CCPM) is an approach that organizes tasks and resources to realize the most efficient path to project completion.

Understanding critical chain project management

Fundamentally, critical chain project management is a project planning strategy with an emphasis on resolving project resource constraints. Indeed, most project bottlenecks are caused by a lack of people, money, equipment, or physical space. 

In a project plan, the critical chain describes a sequence of resource-dependent tasks that prevent a project from being completed in a shorter time. To determine the critical chain, the business must start with the critical path – or the longest sequence of tasks that need to be completed to successfully conclude a project. Resources are then assigned to the critical path which in turn highlights resource constraints. This resource-constrained critical path is the critical chain.

Why is critical chain project management important?

CCPM identifies required resources and any pre-existing constraints to determine the most efficient manner for completing a project. Here, efficiency is defined as the highest number of tasks the business can complete while operating at its maximum capacity. 

Using CCPM, dependencies between tasks and resources are taken into account when planning projects. This allows project managers to navigate uncertainty and unforeseen circumstances by:

  • Determining resource constraints invariably related to employees, workstations, materials, and so forth. Which sets of activities, if delayed, have the potential to extend the end date of the project?
  • Planning a task schedule backward from the completion date to ensure tasks are done as required. This creates a sense of urgency in the project team and motivates them to realize their full potential.
  • Implementing buffers to insulate the project. As a general rule, the bigger the risk or degree of uncertainty, the bigger the buffer needs to be.
  • Eliminating multitasking – when employees constantly switch between tasks, a productivity decrease causes task durations to increase.
  • Monitoring the buffers, checking for completed milestones, and ensuring the project is progressing according to plan. A detailed project model should also be shared with the entire project team to measure progress.

CCPM also seeks to address a major disadvantage of critical path project management (CPM), which does not consider the impact of finite project resources and real-life constraints or bottlenecks.

The role of buffers in critical chain project management

Critical chain project management uses buffers to reduce uncertainty and ensure tasks are completed on time. The buffer itself is a strategic safeguard inserted into the critical chain to maintain efficient project progression.

There are three types of buffers:

  1. Project buffers – these buffers are inserted between the last task and the completion date of the project. In this way, a project buffer absorbs critical chain delays without impacting the completion date.
  2. Feeding buffers – these are placed between the last task on a non-critical (feeding) chain and the critical chain. This ensures any delays on a feeding chain do not impact the critical chain.
  3. Resource buffers – or any buffer placed on the critical chain to ensure the appropriate resources are available when required. These resources are referred to as critical resources.

Key takeaways:

  • Critical chain project management is an approach that organizes tasks and resources to realize the most efficient path to project completion.
  • Critical chain project management has an emphasis on resolving project resource constraints. These are usually related to people, money, equipment, and physical space, among other things.
  • Critical chain project management incorporates buffers to reduce uncertainty and increase efficiency. Buffers are inserted directly into the critical chain and come in three types: project buffers, feeding buffers, and resource buffers.

Connected Management Frameworks

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Change Management

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Change is an important and necessary fact of life for all organizations. But change is often unsuccessful because the people within organizations are resistant to change. Change management is a systematic approach to managing the transformation of organizational goals, values, technologies, or processes.

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

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Harvard Business School professor Dr. John Kotter has been a thought-leader on organizational change, and he developed Kotter’s 8-step change model, which helps business managers deal with organizational change. Kotter created the 8-step model to drive organizational transformation.

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees

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The McKinsey 7-S Model was developed in the late 1970s by Robert Waterman and Thomas Peters, who were consultants at McKinsey & Company. Waterman and Peters created seven key internal elements that inform a business of how well positioned it is to achieve its goals, based on three hard elements and four soft elements.

Lewin’s Change Management

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Lewin’s change management model helps businesses manage the uncertainty and resistance associated with change. Kurt Lewin, one of the first academics to focus his research on group dynamics, developed a three-stage model. He proposed that the behavior of individuals happened as a function of group behavior.

ADKAR Model

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The ADKAR model is a management tool designed to assist employees and businesses in transitioning through organizational change. To maximize the chances of employees embracing change, the ADKAR model was developed by author and engineer Jeff Hiatt in 2003. The model seeks to guide people through the change process and importantly, ensure that people do not revert to habitual ways of operating after some time has passed.

Force-Field Analysis

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Social psychologist Kurt Lewin developed the force-field analysis in the 1940s. The force-field analysis is a decision-making tool used to quantify factors that support or oppose a change initiative. Lewin argued that businesses contain dynamic and interactive forces that work together in opposite directions. To institute successful change, the forces driving the change must be stronger than the forces hindering the change.

Business Innovation Matrix

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Business innovation is about creating new opportunities for an organization to reinvent its core offerings, revenue streams, and enhance the value proposition for existing or new customers, thus renewing its whole business model. Business innovation springs by understanding the structure of the market, thus adapting or anticipating those changes.

Posci Change Management

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According to Prosci founder Jeff Hiatt, the secret to successful change “lies beyond the visible and busy activities that surround change. Successful change, at its core, is rooted in something much simpler: how to facilitate change with one person.”

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