What is the next step in the future of Critical Chain project management? What new types of projects can we handle — if we expand the scope, the core concepts, and the tools, of Critical Chain? [And, in the process, provide a clear way forward when “the constraint is in the market”?]
Single-Project CC: Twenty years ago, Critical Chain (CC) project management emerged with a scope focused on a single project. The constraint of that system was the critical chain of an individual project. The ability to take a well-planned project, and reduce its duration by 15-25% with no compromises, was a paradigm shift from traditional project management, And many case studies reported great success, for example, on construction projects.
Multi-Project CC: Fifteen years ago, Critical Chain expanded its scope to multi-project organizations with shared resources. The constraint of that system was the drum resource of the entire set of projects in a project pipeline of shared resources. The ability to determine the realistic capacity of a project pipeline (which we could commit to), and increase project throughput by at least 15-25%, was further evidence that CC PM was a true paradigm shift, and not just an “alternative scheduling approach”. And many case studies reported great success, for example, in maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) project organizations.
As the scope of CC expanded, its focus and emphasis changed. For example, in multi-project CC, the emphasis is no longer on reducing cycle time, and additional buﬀers are inserted in individual project plans, as they are sequenced on the drum resource. So partitioners learned additional tools, and let go of some practices of the preceding single-project scope.
Strategic CC: Today, for Critical Chain to continue to advance, the scope must expand again, to include the case where “the constraint in the market”. This means the new product development process (NPD) now limits the further growth of the organization, and the NPD process begins with projects born in the strategic / product development funnel. For Critical Chain to become the next level of project management, we must create the foundation for future case studies to show success on new product development projects.
New Concepts: This will require new concepts, additional tools, and letting go of some current practices of multi-project critical chain. The new core concept that must be added to CC is value — specifically customer value — value as determined by the customer. [This is a completely diﬀerent definition of value than found in earned value analysis or value stream analysis.] For product development projects, it is often more important that the content of the project be right — that is, that the product be clearly superior in the eyes of the customer — than finishing early or under budget. Instead of focusing on tasks that are merely critical to schedule, we must also focus on tasks that are essential to value. So the essential chain of truly value-adding tasks becomes the primary focus of NPD project managers.
Further Application: The ability of Critical Chain enhanced with value to produce innovative insights for new product development is not just a strategic concern of large corporations. Is is also required for the First Project for entrepreneurs and start-ups. Before there can be a business with production and distribution to manage, there must be a viable first product that customers want to buy. So the First Project of any new business is to develop exactly that product — or die trying. A solo entrepreneur or tiny start up is the most basic, and most fundamental, type of business. Can Critical Chain, and Theory of Constraints, help here?
Case Study: An actual case study will be presented showing how strategic CC for new product development can address this situation. How a solo entrepreneur, Melissa, with training, skills, and strong desire to pursue her passion — but with no products, no production, and no distribution — can be helped by ToC (expanded to include value as a core concept), and supported by the Customer Value Tree (CVT).
New Tool: The Customer Value Tree (CVT) is new type of tree for ToC. Like the Evaporating Cloud diagram, it has rigorously defined elements, but defines and documents customer value (value as defined by the customer). Like the Current and Future Reality trees, it shows logical relationships, but horizontally — and across all dimensions of the new product development process. Unlike other ToC tools, the Customer Value Tree is done from the customer (external) perspective, not the business (internal) perspective.