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Frank Patrick's Focused Performance Business Blog
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, September 19, 2003

Commitments -- In Hal's current thread on breakdowns, he suggests a rule to...
"Make commitments at the last responsible moment."
As my regular readers know, Critical Chain-based project management has a lot to say about commitments.

Project Buffers are about giving a commitment to a client in terms of a range of time that is refined as the project progresses, or that reflects in its upper limit a not-to-exceed commitment that should be manageable and meetable.

Once piece of CCPM not talked about as often as others -- Resource Alerts -- are perfect for giving the crane provider in Hal's example the appropriate notice at the appropriate time. As Hal points out, the crane provider does not need 5 months notice for a 6 week lead time against a date that is sure to change anyhow. Resource Alerts (some call them resource buffers, but they're significantly different from project and feeding buffers) serve as an "alarm clock," going off at the appropriate time -- in this case, when there's about 6 weeks of estimated work between today and when the crane will be needed. And this is not a one time alarm clock. There's a "snooze button" feature that keeps the crane provider notified of possible changes during those 6 weeks.

Finally, perfectly in line with "committing" at the last responsible moment is the recognition inherent in CCPM that the only dates that matter in the long run are those associated with the Project Buffer-protected commitments. Along the way, short-run (but still malleable) commitments associated with near-in task handoffs (necessary to allow the next resource to prepare to pick up their "baton in the relay race that is the project") are made "at the last responsible moment" are also built into CCPM though regular and frequent (ideally daily) updates on estimates of currently active tasks.

Last night, on the season premiere of Survivor (one of my guilty pleasures, I'll admit), it was pointed out that the contestants should not worry about being voted off the island until they actually are. It ain't over 'til it's over. Commitments may be in concrete, but prudent commitments -- and the prudent planning of subsequent actions that count on them -- must recognize that it isn't necessarily quick-setting concrete.

If the provider of commitments is allowed to commit to best speed possible (and work in a way that supports it) along with appropriate quality, and if s/he provides rolling updates refining those commitments along the way, then specific commitments of when something will happen in the future will be of minimal concern.

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