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This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Second Thoughts about the Tufte Project Diagram -- After having a chance to think about the diagrams mentioned in the post of 9/17, I'd like to reiterate that while the examples look nice and clean (which appealed to me greatly), as a project gets a bit more complex, i.e., tasks with multiple successors, you'll still have a fair amount of spaghetti going on (They examples show some multiple predecessor situations but only single successors). The clean look will definitely go away in the real world.

In addition, the explicit timeline raises another potential problem as well -- more significant than the cleanliness of the diagram. In my implementations of critical chain-based project management, I encourage clients to use display projects with network diagrams (like the one usually called PERT) rather than Gantts. Gantt charts, with their "predictions" of the future present too much distracting fiction in terms of the time line and dates associated with future tasks. The presentation of anything that can be construed as interim due dates that, if met, imply that the project is "on track," run the risk of introducing Parkinson's Law behaviors into the project, and threaten the schedules speed and schedule performance.

A network diagram and an indication of current project buffer status should suffice to describe a project, its status, and its health. If necessary to determine corrective action when buffers get too consumed, the PM can dig into the Gantt info to see where assumptions about future task durations provide opportunities for improvement.

What I do like, however, about the Tufte diagram is the idea of the vertical axis containing resources with the sense (if not the detail) of time (via the logical dependencies) along the horizontal. The resource structure, resulting in a swimlane-like diagram, will allow resources and their mangers to more easily see where their activity is, and as tasks get checked off as complete, their approach.

So I guess a reasonable variation would be network diagrams organized by a vertical depiction of resources.

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