Saturday, September 3, 2011

Focus and Leverage Part 52

In my last posting I told you that Bruce Nelson is writing a white paper on how to combine two very important TOC based tools, the Intermediate Objectives Map (IO Map) and the Interference Diagram (ID). Bruce is not yet finished with his paper, but when he’s ready, I’ll post either a link to it or the white paper spread out over several postings. While we’re all waiting for Bruce to finish, I want to do something I haven’t done here before. I want to endorse a book that I am now reading for the third time. The book is written by a man named Andreas Scherer and its title is Be Fast or Be Gone: Racing the Clock with Critical Chain Project Management. This book is perhaps the best book on CCPM that I have ever read…..even better than Goldratt’s book, Critical Chain which I thought could never be outdone.

What makes Scherer’s book such a compelling read? There are two primary reasons. First, it is written in a business novel format with a story line that could apply to many people around the world. It is a gripping novel about a man who is an expert in Project Management or more specifically, Critical Chain Project Management. He works in the semiconductor industry and has been very successful at improving the speed of completion of research projects. He actually has taken the on-time completion rates of projects of this nature to over 95% while reducing the overall time to complete them by over 40%.

Here’s what makes this story line so gripping. He has an 8 year old son who contracts a very rare form of brain cancer. When he meets with the doctors he is disheartened to find out that the survival rate for this type of cancer is very poor because it does not respond well to conventional surgical and chemical methods. When this man questions his son’s doctor about the availability of experimental drugs, he is told that only one company, Altus Drugs (a fictional company), is working on a new treatment drug, but that it’s years away from FDA approval. The drug had been studied in some adults, but never in children and that approval to move into that phase of development wouldn’t be ready in time to help his son. Disheartened, this man contacts the Pharmaceutical Company and asks to meet with the leadership of this company to offer his services to possibly speed up the development process. This is the basic story line and believe me, it is a very touching and movable novel.

The other reason this book is so compelling is that it clearly demonstrates the wide range of application that CCPM offers. My experience with CCPM is in the MRO industry and I’ve had incredible success at reducing cycle times that have improved throughput by over 40%. I know the power of this methodology in improving the success rate of projects, but to see its application as an R & D tool was somewhat of an eye opener for me. I hadn’t thought about adapting it to “knowledge workers” as Scherer calls them to help get research and development projects done faster and more effectively. I had done a lot of reading about CCPM’s application to manufacturing and even the construction industry, but I hadn’t ever read about applications in the “knowledge” industry.

Be Fast or Be Gone clearly takes place in a fictional setting, but after reading this wonderful book, plus my own experiences, there is no doubt in my mind that CCPM will work in virtually every industry. And with the spiraling healthcare costs that seem to have no upper limit, this book offers a way to perhaps slow down this rate of inflation.

I highly recommend this book for both its compelling story line and for the value-added it offers the world of project management. One word of caution however…..if you’re like me, you probably will need a cadre of tissues handy as you read it. It is a touching novel that will grab your heart, especially if you have children or grandchildren like I do. And by the way, the book only costs ~$10 and if you do read it, I welcome your comments.

Bob Sproull

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