BY KELLEY HUNSBERGER
Resource availability: It's often the main culprit behind missed deadlines. And as many organizations still struggle with the effects of an unstable economy, project managers are using critical chain to build this factor into the planning process.
The technique, based on the theory of constraints, sets out the quickest path from project acceptance to completion. Instead of simply basing the path on what needs to be done, it also addresses who should be doing it.
Critical chain project managers add buffers to critical milestones to protect projects from slippage. But buffers increase complexity.
“Monitoring buffer consumption is the biggest challenge,” says Abdelrahman Hussein, PMP, project planning and scheduling analyst at URS Corp., a construction company in Princeton, New Jersey, USA. “The project manager has to pay ultimate attention to buffer expenses. The whole idea of eliminating slack from the network and accumulating it as buffer reservoirs is dangerous. Uncontrolled expenses of the buffer account can take the project to a point where significant damage is inevitable no matter what recovery procedure is being adopted.”
The critical chain approach can provide much-needed relief for overloaded team members on a tight deadline.
“With critical chain, priorities are clear and multitasking is reduced, so employees can finish work quicker,” says Richard Smal, senior project manager of supply chain at Philips Consumer Lifestyle, a branch of the electronics giant in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
Critical chain empowers team members, but for it to work, they must be convinced they wield that power.
“People often believe that improvement is out of their control and, therefore, maintain the status quo,” adds Mr. Smal, who is also a partner at Goldratt Implementation Group, a critical chain project management consultancy. “It takes a strong leader who is not happy with the status quo to sponsor this change.”
Here are three case studies that demonstrate how critical chain methodology can help an organization maximize constrained human resources.
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