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Have you ever heard the saying “The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time and the last 10% takes the other 90%.” Well you are not alone.
Research shows that projects regularly fail to deliver on time, in specification and to budget. Only 16% of all IT projects are fully successful, the other 84% fail in some form. Over 73% of all construction projects in the UK are delivered late or over budget. In fact the world’s largest study of project management found that project failure dominates all sectors.
The primary reason projects fail is not because the people are incompetent, technical issues are too great, or customers are too difficult, it is because traditional project management methods do not properly handle the uncertainties and complexity inherent in most projects.
The fundamental problem is the way we deal with task time uncertainty. Projects are traditionally planned based on the time each task is expected to take, with some safety added to allow for disruptions and uncertainties. Those disruptions and uncertainties come in many forms; lack of key information at the right time, errors in time estimation, changes in specification, lack of staff availability, unforeseen problems in prior tasks or conflict with other work using the same resource.
The safety allowed for disruptions and uncertainties is added to each task and the aggregate of all the task durations put together into a project plan. The project plan is then submitted for approval and may be changed to meet business objectives before finally being approved.
Where the project plan starts to unravel is when a task runs later than its safety can handle. A task that runs late puts the whole project at risk of being late. When a project is in danger of being late we are forced to deliver late, or reduce the scope or add resources and blow the budget.
The traditional approach to this problem is to try and reduce the amount of variation in estimated task times. This approach can work in repetitive task environments. But often there is high uncertainty because the project is complex and has no precedent, needed resources are unavailable or uncontrollable factors intervene on a regular basis.
The reality in many project environments is that it is impossible to completely eliminate the causes of variation in estimated task times.
The first step to delivering more projects, faster with less stress is to recognise that there is more than enough time embedded in most projects. It’s just the way we are taught to plan and use that time which wastes it.
The reality in most project environments is that it does not matter whether any individual task is late, so long as the whole project is not late. A further reality is that most projects embed safety in each task. Each task is then treated as a milestone which we try to bring in on time. This milestone driven approach with safety embedded everywhere causes many of the problems we experience in project management.
Embedded task safety leads to Parkinson’s Law – the phenomena where work expands to fill the time available. Rather than report an early finish and be held accountable for early task completion on the next project, we tend to polish what we have already done and report task completion on time.
Some of us when given a task first check to see what’s involved. Realising that we can do it faster than the time allocated we put the task to one side until nearer the time it is ‘needed’. This phenomena is so common it also has its own name. You might know it as the Student Syndrome, where tasks are not started until the last minute. Of course, starting at the last minute usually means ‘Murphy’ strikes and there is a knock on effect for the rest of the project.
Work to start dates
Even when a task is completed early, in many cases the time gained is lost as the resource for the next task is not available or it works to the projected start date.
In many businesses people are working on more than one project or task at a time. Embedded safety and uncontrolled release of projects leads to bad multitasking, which delays completion of all tasks (and therefore projects) being worked on.
Critical Chain Project Management
Critical Chain Project Management eliminates Parkinson’s Law, Student Syndrome, work to start dates and bad multitasking because it treats tasks differently. Safety is removed from the individual tasks and aggregated or pooled at the end of the project. The pooled safety, called the Project Buffer, is then available for all tasks.
Because of an effect known as statistical aggregation, the pooling of safety in the Project Buffer is more effective at protecting the project than safety within tasks. Less safety is therefore needed which means project duration is shorter, typically by 25%.
The impact on one or a portfolio of projects is more projects delivered faster.
Our due date performance since working with Freeflow Partners has improved from 30% to 100%. We have not missed one customer order in over 8 months – David Presland, Trimax Mowing Systems, Tauranga, Bay of Plenty
Research shows that 95% of projects using CCPM are delivered on time, in specification and to budget.
Our experience, and that of other CCPM implementers, is that clients should achieve greater than 95% due date reliability, 25% faster project delivery, 33% more output for the same cost and a more harmonious work environment.
Our Implementation Approach
Applying Critical Chain to a real live project is usually the place to start. We review either an existing project plan or work with you to create one based on CCPM principles. Through this process we conduct proper training in CCPM to ensure project team members understand:
Through the experiential training and practical application of CCPM we ensure your team develop the required understanding and buy in and that the required policy and behaviour changes occur.
We will also help you to implement a process of continuous improvement in project delivery through buffer management. The outcome is more projects, faster with much less stress.