How to fight the forces conspiring to delay your project.
We’ve already seen how poor project management can lead to project overruns, budget overruns, and compromised project content. But how does this happen?
Well, good project planning and scheduling are key.
Failure to address uncertainty properly can impact project performance significantly.
But what about when your project is up and running? What factors can prevent us delivering projects on schedule? Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) contends that, at this point, there are three forces that can negatively affect your project performance. These are:
- Student Syndrome
- Dependencies between steps.
Let’s take a look at each of these enemies of good project performance.
Student Syndrome refers to the tendency to put off doing work until the last minute; procrastination in other words.
This can become a major problem in projects where there are multiple steps and each step has been allocated its own time buffer or safety. If a project worker delays beginning a piece of work until absolutely the last minute, any time buffer allocated to that project step will have been consumed before work has even begun.
Any subsequent delays will directly impact the project delivery date.
Student Syndrome is a major reason why CCPM theory tells us not to allow for a time buffer or safety within the time allocated for every individual project step.
Rather, CCPM tells us to slash the time allocated for individual project steps.
When project workers are unsure as to whether they can complete a step in time, they don’t dare procrastinate. However, this slashing must remain within the realms of possibility. You don’t want to slash project task times by so much that the times allocated for each step begin to look completely unrealistic; this can have the opposite effect and become a huge de-motivator.
Nevertheless, it’s good to be ambitious: negotiate and continually feed in information about task completion times.
By reducing the ‘safety’ on each part of the project and back-loading this at the end of the project, CCPM creates a single, large safety at the end of the project schedule. This reduces or eliminates the influence of Student Syndrome and makes it easier to see the real effect of delays to the critical path and to the delivery of the project as a whole.
Multi-tasking is the single biggest threat to effective project management. We examine it in some detail in other posts, so it’s probably enough for me to say here that one way to tackle it is to reduce the number of active projects. This can be achieved by freezing some projects for a period of time until others have been completed.
The dependencies between steps
The dependencies between steps are a fact of life. However, in traditional project management, dependencies cause delays to accumulate and advances to be wasted.
There may be many reasons why advances are wasted. Student Syndrome being one. ‘Parkinson’s Law’ is another. Parkinson’s Law refers to the notion that ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’. Whether this time is used up taking a few additional tea breaks or adding some unnecessary bells and whistles, ‘spare’ time has a tendency to disappear.
CCPM looks for ways to manage dependencies better.
A large part of this is accomplished through better buffer allocation and management. I also explore this elsewhere in other posts, so it’s probably enough for me to say here that the dependencies between steps can be mitigated by:
- removing task buffers and replacing them with a single project buffer, and
- creating feeder buffers where a non-critical path joins our critical path.
Any advances made are then no longer absorbed by the subsequent step; they are visible in the project buffer (or feeder buffer). Delays may still occur, of course, but advances will count against them.