Critical Chain Project Management

10 Critical Chain Project Manager Tips

Table of Contents

Are You a Project Manager Dealing with a Multi-Project Environment

If so, perhaps you have encountered some of the following project performance issues:


Critical Chain Project Management


Then you need to consider using Critical Chain Project Management in a Multi-Project environment


Many companies and organizations from Boeing, to NASA, to Texas Instruments, use CCPM to speed up their processes and ensure they complete projects on-time.

The Thinking Processes


Although there are a series of steps involved in The Thinking Process, which forms the foundational tool for working through a CCPM based project, I wanted to simplify them for the project managers out there based on my experience in aircraft depot repair and in Supply Chain Management software implementations (primarily on the A380 program). 

TOC Thinking Processes


The thinking processes, which are derived from the Theory of Constraints, are somewhat difficult to work through without continuous practice in a real environment and deserve separate treatment on their own.  First, a quick overview of what a TOC Thinking Process is.


What are the Thinking Processes?


The Theory of Constraints (TOC) 'Thinking Processes' are a powerful tool that helps project managers identify and address constraints that hinder project performance. In a multi-project environment, it can be challenging to identify the main constraint, but the sooner you do it, the better. Buffers, which are critical elements in CCPM projects, can also be challenging to identify and manage in software implementation projects.

Three Types of Buffers

As a project manager you need to be aware of the three types of buffers in the Critical Chain Project Management Methodology:


  • Resource Buffer

    A resource buffer is inserted just before a critical chain activity where a critical resource is required. It's used to remind the project team that a resource is needed and to finish up prior activities.

  • Project Buffer

    A project buffer is the summation of all the internal buffers added to each project task or activity.  In a Project Plan as displayed on Microsoft Project, you will see this as space at the end of your project.  This is where you will see and manage penetration into your buffer.

  • Feeding Buffer

    Feeding Buffer inserted as a safety margin in the non-critical chain of a network schedule. It's placed where the path feeds back into the critical chain path.

With regular practice, project managers who are adept at Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) can learn how to force each of these types of buffers to appear and assume any reported buffer status is somewhat managed.


Report Buffer Status


As a CCPM project manager, you will need to communicate more information about buffer status with the customer management team to survive politically. 

Approach to Working with Buffers


Here are my basic steps and assumptions when using TOC and CCPM on software projects as well as aircraft depot overhaul projects:

  • Identify the constraint or constraints if in a multi-project (all of which feed the main project) environment.

    In software implementation projects, this can be very difficult to do as inventory isn't normally stacked up in front of anybody. 


    Development requirements can only be addressed if and when they are identified.  The logical conclusion here is that the sooner you get the problem identified, either get it approved for work or kill it.  Never waste time on it after it is killed.

  • Buffers, both feeding buffer and project buffer, are at best abstract terms in a software implementation project.  You have to force their appearance and assume any status reported to you as the PM is at least somewhat managed by the person reporting the status. 

    Practice management by walking around (MBWO).  Unfortunately, this means that when you are working on global projects (almost always), you will accumulate a lot of air miles:)

  • As the PM, in a CCPM project, you won't make as much noise as in a usual project, and you will have to work very hard to communicate much more with the customer management team about the project status.  In other words, you will have to work harder to survive politically because it works so much better.

Pay Attention to the Critical Path

In TOC, whether you're managing a SAP Project Implementation or manufacturing an aircraft, as we were doing on the Airbus A380 program, you still need to know, understand use the concept of a Critical Path.


Short Critical Path Definition

What Is Critical Path Project Management?

As a project manager, it's important to understand the concept of a critical path in order to ensure project success. The critical path is the sequence of tasks that determine the earliest possible completion date of the project. When you are managing project using the critical path approach to project management, it's important to identify the critical path and make sure that the tasks on it are completed on time, as any delay in these tasks can cause the entire project to be delayed.


Critical Path Jumps Around

It's important for a project manager and project team members to understand the concept task relationships relationship types. 


Those relationship types are typically:


  • Finish-to-Start
  • Finish-to-Finish
  • Start-to-Finish
  • Start-to-Start  

It is also important to understand the concept of lead and lag time.  During initial project planning, when you are identifying the tasks it will take to accomplish your project, you will identify the tasks, deliverables and the lag time (rarely lead time, but it can happen), between tasks.  Your critical path then, depends on the sequence of tasks and the lag time between them.  As your project progresses, and it tasks consume this lag time, you will notice the phenomenon of your critical path bouncing around.  This problem is one of the reasons for the need of Critical Chain Project Management, especially within the Multi-Project environment.


Multi-Project Environment Critical Path


In a multi-project environment, identifying the critical path can be challenging, but using Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) can help. CCPM involves the use of buffers to manage project timelines and identify constraints that hinder project performance. By using the thinking processes derived from the Theory of Constraints, project managers can identify and address these constraints early on, ensuring that the project stays on track and is completed successfully.


Difference Between Critical Path Method and the Critical Chain Project Management Method

In a multi-project environment, project managers face several performance issues, such as projects not completing on time, team conflicts, and financial losses. To address these challenges, critical path method (CPM) and critical chain project management (CCPM) methodologies are used. While CPM helps identify the sequence of tasks that determine the earliest possible completion date of a project, CCPM involves the use of buffers to manage project timelines and identify constraints that hinder project performance. CCPM is derived from the theory of constraints and involves thinking processes that help project managers identify and address constraints that hinder project performance. Unlike CPM, CCPM requires regular practice and communication with the customer management team to ensure project success. By using these methodologies, project managers can overcome the challenges of managing a multi-project environment and ensure successful project completion.


Get My Other 7 Tips


To get these and the remaining 7 tips just click on SAP Project Management Tips?

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More reading:

5 Surprising Reasons Enterprises Don’t Use An ERP

Leverage SAP BW to Increase Supply Chain Inventory Accuracy



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Lonnie D. Ayers, PMP

About the Author: Lonnie Ayers is a Hubspot Certified Inbound Marketing consultant, with additional certifications in Hubspot Content Optimization, Hubspot Contextual Marketing, and is a Hubspot Certified Partner. Specialized in demand generation and sales execution, especially in the SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Partner space, he has unique insight into the tough challenges Service Providers face with generating leads and closing sales using the latest digital tools. With 15 years of SAP Program Management experience, and dozens of complex sales engagements under his belt, he helps partners develop and communicate their unique sales proposition. Frequently sought as a public speaker in various events, he is available for both inhouse engagements and remote coaching.
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He also recently released a book "How to Dominate Any Market - Turbocharging Your Digital Marketing and Sales Results", which is available on Amazon.

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