Managing Projects the Systemic Way: Critical Chain
In his 1997 novel called ‘Critical Chain’, Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt tackles the issue of project management. Goldratt provides a unique and revolutionary insight into this very underdeveloped part of managerial literature.
The book ‘Critical Chain’
The main tenets of Goldratt’s book ‘Critical Chain’ the book are the following:
- Wrong behaviours and mind habits like multitasking and putting issues off until the last minute (“Student Syndrome’) slow down artificially the completion of projects;
- Our minds are not trained to assess risks associated with probability distributions;
- We must not protect individual tasks but the project as a whole – no milestones;
- The traditional Critical path method for scheduling projects often creates resource contention;
- Resolving this resource contention leads to a very different series of dependent events that determine the length of the project; we call it Critical Chain;
- It is this chain that we protect with a project buffer that absorbs the covariance of the project;
- Non-critical branches, called feeders, are also protected with a cumulative buffer (not individually) placed at the end of the “feeding chain”;
- If we manage several projects in parallel, we must select a finite set of resources called “pacing resources”; they will dictate the pace at which the organization as a whole is capable of achieving its goals.
A vision of the world
Critical Chain is a very intense, heartfelt and sometimes abrasive novel. In this deceptively simple and fast-paced book, Dr. Goldratt throws down the gauntlet to academics and industrialists alike on what it takes to use knowledge to achieve results. Critical Chain is the offspring of a vision of the world and, too often, the elucidation on this vision has been insufficient compared with the wealth of practical details that Dr. Goldratt’s applications often attract from pundits all over the world. Like all of Goldratt’s revolutionary contributions to management, Critical Chain has achieved very partial results in industry and none at corporate level.
Missing the point
Looking at Critical Chain as a technique for managing projects means essentially missing the point. The reason why, after thirteen years of relentless efforts to disseminate Critical Chain, tools like Microsoft Project still dominate the way projects are “managed” is that any attempt to use Critical Chain without embracing a purely systemic view of the organization is doomed to failure.
Critical Chain represents the embodiment of a vision of the organization based on pace of flow, people’s involvement and great emphasis on quality. Quality, involvement and flow are the basic philosophical pillars of the systemic organization.
Extract from the book: Sechel: Logic, Language and Tools to Manage Any Organization as a Network of Projects