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Elyssa Pallai

VP Marketing


Digital marketer and translator, Elyssa spends her time putting NPD and engineering concepts into plain english and working on new and meaningful ways to connect with Playbook's amazing clients.

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6 Tips for Implementing Critical Chain Project Management

Elyssa Pallai- 08/8/19 11:30 AM

Accelerating product delivery has a direct impact on the profitability of your business. And because our number one raison d'etre is to get you to market sooner, here are 6 tips from Critical Chain Project Management that will ensure your success!

Six Tips for Implementing Critical Chain Project Management

  1. Use decentralized planning

    Since we’re talking about project management, the first step is to create the plan—obviously! But the key here is to use decentralized planning. Decentralized planning means that you get input from the people who will actually be doing the work. As a result, you capture more detail, and therefore you end up with better estimates of task durations. As a result, you will not only have a more accurate plan, you will also have buy-in from the team!

  2. Take the padding out of estimates

    It’s human nature to pad your work and duration estimates when creating a plan. The team knows things take longer, or they’ll get pulled in several directions to work on other things. The problem with padding individual tasks is that the team knows the padding is there. As a result, Student Syndrome sets in, things slip and end up taking up the buffer. As a result, the project ends up taking longer. Critical chain teaches us to take the padding out of the individual tasks, and create a shared buffer. This helps reduce multitasking and allows us to see when things are sliding.

  3. Load level the work

    Once you have all of the tasks and dependencies captured, you have to look at resource loading and make sure that no one is loaded more than 5 to 6 hours per day. It’s a well proven concept that 100% capacity loading (eight hours) is too much. We encourage teams to load the critical resource to 5 or 6 hours of work per day. Don’t worry, they will still work 8+ hours per day! But the amount of time they actually focus on their task will be less.
     
    Yes, it's easy to think this level of loading is too low. But the data absolutely supports the approach. When you measure you will find that people really get ~50-60% of their day work on project tasks, and work estimates are underestimated more often than not.

  4. Create the shared buffers

    Critical Chain Project Management teaches us to use one shared buffer at the end of the project. But we’ve found it to be more effective to create intermediate buffers after each major milestone. Typical new product development projects are so long, and there’s so much uncertainty in the early phases that it’s more meaningful to have a smaller buffer in the near term that we’re watching. The size of the buffer depends on the number of tasks before it, and how much uncertainty there is in the work. And when the team can see the buffer being consumed as a result of their actions, it goes a long way to keeping them focused!

  5. Identify the critical path

    Now that the plan is accurate and load leveled, it’s important to highlight the critical path. That’s because the work on the critical path is where you’ll find your constraint. And as we’ve pointed out, the daily slips can easily double the length of your project. Once you identify what is holding up the system, you can then act to remove the constraint.

  6. Optimize critical resources

    How do you optimize critical resources? Let them focus on getting the job done. For example, minimize interruptions and remove unrelated meetings and low-priority work in their backlog. Also, look to see if any of the critical path work could be done by other resources. Or if there’s any work that could be done to help the person on the critical path such as documentation, etc. And finally, make sure that the handoffs are done effectively.

Another great benefit of Critical Chain Project Management is it creates happier teams. Implement these key principles and let us know how much faster your product is delivered to market, or what % you’ve decreased your project delivery time as well as how much happier the team is!

Want to know more about Critical Chain Project Management? Download this presentation.

Download my presentation on Critical Chain