Monday, March 31, 2014

Focus and Leverage Part 330

In this posting we’ll take a look at the stark differences between CCPM and CPM and why I believe that CCPM is the superior method.  If you have any comments or questions, please leave them in the comments section of this blog and I will respond to them.

In CPM, tasks are over-inflated by at least 50 percent and here’s where we take advantage of this extra time.  We now subtract half of the time estimates from each one of the tasks and create a project buffer as in the following figure.

As you can see, the new tasks times are half of the original esti­mates, but you can also see that we now have added a pro­ject buffer.  The project buffer becomes half of the time we have taken from the task durations.   The next question we now posed to leadership was, how does having this project buffer improve the on-time completion of projects?  Surprisingly, one member of the leadership team was able to give a wonderful analogy to answer this question.  The team member said, “If I understand this concept, then the project buffer works just like a bank account with deposits and withdrawals.  If a task takes longer than the estimate, you withdraw time from the project buffer, but if the task is finished in a shorter amount of time, you add the time back into the project buffer.  We told him this was a great analogy.

With CPM, delays are passed on while gains are lost and this is such a signifi­cant difference!  The project buffer protects the project from delays.  We also explained that we also add feeding buffers to make sure that tasks not on the critical chain are completed on time.

At this point there was a question from the leadership team on why we thought that having this project buffer would eliminate the Student Syndrome and Parkinson’s Law and we answered this question in the following way.  In traditional project management, that is using the Critical Path Method (CPM), each task has a scheduled start and finish date.  CCPM com­pletely removes the start and finish dates from the schedule so that the focus will be passing on tasks as soon as they are completed. In doing so, both the Student Syndrome and Par­kinson’s Law are pretty much neutralized. We explained that CCPM uses a relay race mentality whereby the runner completes a certain distance and then passes off the baton to the next runner who is waiting.

Earlier I explained that in CPM we track progress of the project by calculating the percentage of individual tasks completed and then comparing that percentage against the project due date.  The problem with this method is that it is nearly impossible to know how much time is remaining to complete the project.  If you use this method to track progress, many times you’ll see 90 percent of a project completed only to see the remaining 10 percent take just as long. In fact, looking at the number or percentage of tasks completed, instead of how much of the critical path has been completed, only really serves to give a false sense of schedule conformance.  CCPM measures project performance in a much different way, and in so doing, allows the project to make valuable use of early fin­ishes of tasks. CCPM uses something called a Fever Chart, which is simply a run chart of the percentage of the critical chain completed versus the percentage of project buffer consumed.  In the figure below, you’ll see three different colored zones.  We explained the different colors as follows:  Green means that the project is progressing either on or ahead of schedule; yellow means that the project is using more buffer than progress is being made and that it’s time to develop a plan to reduce the rate of buffer consumption.  Red means that buffer is being used at an alarming rate and that if no action is taken, the project will definitely be late.


In order to reinforce the interpretation of this color scheme, we then asked the leadership team if it was ever acceptable for your project to finish the project in the red on the fever chart and virtually everyone said no, except for one person.  We then asked, this person to explain under what circumstances that it would that be acceptable.

The response was that ss long as the critical chain is 100 percent completed, and you haven’t used more than 100 percent of your project buffer, then fin­ishing in the red is perfectly acceptable.  We agreed and told them that in fact, if both of these variables are at the 100 percent level, the project is ex­actly on time.

It was very important that the leadership team understood how to interpret the fever chart, so we then asked for a volunteer to explain what they saw on this fever chart.  Some did volunteer and explained it very well.  Tis project started off ahead of schedule by complet­ing 20 percent of the critical chain while only consuming 8 percent of the buffer. But if you look at the latest data point, only 41 percent of the chain is complete, but 72 percent of the buffer has been con­sumed, This project is now behind schedule, and unless some kind of intervention is undertaken, this project will be late.  It doesn’t mean that this project is doomed to be late, but rather it only means that some kind of action must be taken, or the project will be late completing.

The key point to remember here is that you should get excited with vertical rises because it always spells trouble if left unattended,  In addition, we explained that if you divide the percent of the critical chain completed into the percent of buffer consumed, this ratio could give a single number that would tell you how well you’re doing.  So if your ratio was above one, your rate of buffer consump­tion would be too high, while if the ratio is below one, everything is going well.  This was important for the leadership to understand because they would not have to review every fever chart for every project.  They could simply look at the ratio for each project and know if it was on schedule or whether it might need their help.


One other point we presented to the leadership team was the concept of a portfolio of projects.  We presented the fever chart above to let them know that this was a tool that would allow them to see, at a glance, which projects might need their attention.  On a single sheet of paper or one computer screen, they would be able to see which projects were red and yellow….those that might need their attention and which projects that they could ignore (i.e. the green ones).  In the above fever chart we asked them which ones might be in need of an intervention and they all rightfully told us that projects 1 and 7 were clearly eating up buffer at an unacceptable rate and that projects 2, 3 and possible 8, might need some work.  They also recognized that projects 4, 5, 6 and 9 did not pose a threat, at least for the moment.

There was another side of the CCPM implementation that we explained to the leadership team, key things that must be done if their CCPM implementation was going to be successful. We explained that every day there must be stand-up meetings with the key resources to find out what their resources might need.. By that we meant that they should go to the re­sources and ask them if they have everything they need and if they have any problems. The leadership team needed to understand that if the “boots on the ground” executing the projects couldn’t resolve their issues, then they must escalate the problem up through the various levels of management.  We explained that although this may sound trivial, it truly isn’t and that if this step is not taken seriously, the implementation will never be sustained.

In my next posting, we’ll take a look at the results achieved as a result of this implementation.

Bob Sproull

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