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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.

Friday, April 04, 2003

CCPM's Visibility Problem (Cutter 1) -- Last week, buried in a comment to a post, I briefly alluded to a recent Cutter IT Journal issue focusing on Critical Chain-based Project Management (CCPM). It's a $50 purchase, unless you're a client of or subscriber to Cutter, but out of deep interest and curiosity in something I decided not to contribute to, I sprang (sprung?) for a copy and have finally started to get around to seriously reading it. The first full article in the issue, by David Higgins, is entitled "CCPM's Visibility Problem." It's written from the point of view of someone interested but not involved in CCPM and the low level of visibility is has in the larger project management community. As a result of his exploration, Higgins concludes that...
"...the market for CCPM dried up virtually overnight in April 2000 -- and the answer to the riddle suddenly clicked into place: the economy. You'll recall that April 2000 was about the time when everyone finally realized that the tech bubble of the 1990s had burst and that the longest bull market in history was indeed turning into a bear. The adoption of CCPM, which had begun promisingly enough two or three years earlier, ground to an abrupt halt."
This makes sense to me, and matches my personal experience, to a point. But he explains this as due to the fact that...
"Since CCPM is primarily a technique to help organizations shorten development time, interest in the method quickly evaporated when corporate emphasis suddenly shifted from decreasing time to market to cutting costs. Not only did the marketplace stop spending so much on consulting and on implementing new concepts, it completely lost interest in a method that was principally about saving time, not dollars....Critical chain project management's scheduling philosophy was never about cutting costs; it was about cutting actual time to delivery and developing schedules that didn't slip. Unfortunately, CCPM's chief selling point of "reducing time" involves the one project variable that CFOs are least interested in decreasing right now."
Again, on the surface, and in the way that a lot of my fellow CCPM promoters promote the approach, this makes sense, but it is based on only a partial piece of the CCPM picture. If one focuses on the aspects of Critical Chain introduced in Goldratt's introductory book -- the idea of "50%" estimates, and the benefits of aggregating and concentrating "safety" in buffers, the emphasis on speed and reliability of promise of individual projects could be construed as the raison d'etre of the approach.

Although I think I could get defensive and make a case a strong relationship between "faster projects" and "cost reduction," and that cost reduction is only the flip side of the coin of delivering value faster, that's not my main response to the article. As I said, individual project speed and reliability is only part of the picture. Very few projects, especially in the realms of IT, R&D, product development, and other "knowledge work" areas, live in the world of the "single project." Rather, they are predominantly part of a portfolio, pipeline, or program of projects that are performed with, to one degree or another, shared resources. Cost control comes from getting the most value out of this limited set of resources, recognizing that productivity has both a numerator and denominator that need to be considered.

The CCPM body of knowledge is not limited to the management of single projects. It includes an approach to the management of project-based organizations that drives out the waste of doing unnecessary work, doing work too early that is then subject to rework or abandonment, and doing resource-(cost)-wasting things like multi-tasking. For most of the audience of Cutter, the CCPM-based multi-project management solution is where there is tremendous potential for productivity enhancement and cost control.

The value proposition of Critical Chain-based project management is multi-faceted. It is equal parts speed of flow of value through rapid project completions, reliability of promise keeping, and a significant cost control/productivity relationship for the resources needed to do what needs to be done. The sooner we in the CCPM community learn to market all these benefits effectively, the sooner the approach will shed its "visibility problem."

(Watch this space for a continued review of the other articles in the Cutter IT Journal issue.)

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