TOC3 Australia

The Problem with Projects

The problem with projects is that all projects have problems. Some are more severe than others. When 4 out of 5 projects are reported to fail; either not delivered on time, over budget or with reduced scope or a combination of these then clearly something must be done.

Those who implement CCPM experience:

  • Shorter project lead times - at least 25% shorter than benchmarked standards
  • On time delivery - 95% of projects completed on or ahead of schedule
  • Increased output - more projects completed with same resources in same amount of time
  • Improved resource productivity - up to 35% less time required to complete projects with significant cost savings
  • Significantly reduced stress - less course corrections/rescheduling
  • Significantly less capital requirements –less work in progress

“We more than doubled the output of our Freeze Dry equipment in almost half the time, Gerard van Antwerpen, Cuddons Engineering, NZ

How do most project managers respond to troubled projects?

The most common problem is projects falling behind schedule. The typical response to save the project deadline is to avoid a budget blow out so we cut back on the project scope sacrificing less important elements. Some call this “taking short cuts”. From a client's perspective this is highly unacceptable and undesirable.

Other responses to problems encountered with the project management process include:

  • Increase the level of planning detail
  • Re-plan more frequently
  • Micro-manage resources
  • Add managers to handle smaller parts of the project
  • Push accountability down the hierarchy and retract delegated authority
  • Implement complex tracking, measurement and reporting tools
  • Work harder and hope for the best

These responses treat the symptoms but not the deep-rooted causes of project failure. Conventional wisdom suggests that problems will occur so we must make allowance for this by adding safety to each task estimate during the planning phase in order to protect the whole project during the execution phase. This safety if sufficient will absorb the variability in the project at the task level and so preserve the promised completion date. In fact this safety (padding) is often greater than the actual task duration itself. However, more than 50 years of evidence shows that this approach is seriously flawed.

“What Dr. Eli Goldratt discovered in the early 1990’s was that the root cause of most project management problems stemmed from how people managed the inherent uncertainty in projects”.

Fixing the task estimation problem is insufficient to solve the problem. The problem gets worse when we observe responses during the project execution phase. In execution there is little visibility of the safety and how it is being consumed so it is virtually impossible to get a true picture of project progress.

For example, project managers, because they need to be seen as reliable, report % task completed. A task 90% completed looks good. This is not the same as reporting remaining task time to complete the task. It gives the appearance of a further 10% but it could be as much as 50%. So we have little idea of the consumption of the safety allowance.

Since it is almost impossible to have a true picture of project progress project managers are constantly switching between applying tight control (managing the due dates of every task) or loose control (since there is much safety in task estimates). Consequently, project managers drown in details or miss important indicators of threats to project on time delivery. The result is that losses accumulate and gains are lost. Delays in one task are passed on to the next in an ever-compounding fashion whilst any early completions are rarely passed on. It’s no wonder that nearly all projects are late and/or budgets overrun.

Dealing with uncertainty during project planning and during project execution when the unexpected happens is in the majority of cases what causes projects to be late and over budget. That’s the reality and it is something you may wish to change.

It has been reported widely that Critical Chain Project Management is the only true breakthrough in project performance in the last 40 years. CCPM deals with the root cause of why projects typically fail. CCPM is a robust and systematic solution to project management and execution delivering consistent and repeatable success by delivering projects in up to half the time with no additional resources, less cost and with full specifications.

“Applying Critical Chain not only helped us get our homes built faster but quality went up too. We have been the recipients of two National Quality awards in our category that goes beyond our wildest dreams. “ K Norris, Stonewood Homes, NZ

What does implementing the Theory of Constraints Critical Chain Project Management solution involve?

Critical Chain Project Management is a logical and disciplined approach to managing what you already do but with the benefit of knowing where to focus, what to avoid and what behaviours to add in order to generate extraordinary results using your current resources.

It involves commitment to want to change and a willingness to learn and apply the method to your projects. There is nothing to fear, the implementation process is seamless, working in with your current projects and resources. The only impact is to free up time and reduce stress for your team and resources. A good thing!

In project environments managing the change is more significant than the technology itself. We are causing behavioural changes in the face of traditional norms and this requires leadership. Our experience shows that the logic of the technology is easily understood. It is the transition to new behaviours that requires encouragement and support from the project sponsor.

We work closely at all levels during implementation to coach individuals to achieve the appropriate behaviours. Very soon your team begin to see the cause and effect relationship between the new behaviours and the dramatic results. When this happens they let us know and your implementation is secure. We stay until this happens.

New behaviours

  • Construct project networks with “necessary and sufficient” logic
  • Plan with new task estimates
  • Buffer for uncertainty to protect the project not individual tasks
  • Project execution is monitored by buffer penetration
  • Reporting task duration remaining
  • Rapid task handover 

Exit old behaviours

  • Multi-tasking
  • Managing to task start and end dates
  • Planning without consideration for resource capacity
  • Panic

It is possible to apply CCPM to the whole or part of your organization – you will get results.


IMPORTANT NEWS: TOC3 has remained, till now, totally software agnostic, prefering to run visual system solutions wherever they can be effectively applied. Times have changed. Exepron is a low cost, fully functional, fully portable cloud based CCPM software that operates in real time without layers of complexity. Our fast track solutions are now matched by Exepron (projects set up within days not weeks) with several added benefits. 

Contact us now for further information or for one of us to call you to discuss how you would like to improve your projects performance and to learn more about Exepron.



Recommended Reading:

Crtitical Chain, Dr Eli Goldratt

Advanced Multi-Project Management by Gerald Kendall, PMP & Kathleen Austin

Projects in Less Time (A Synopsis of Critical Chain) by Mark Woeppel

Lean Project Management: Eight Principles for Success by Lawerence Leach

Critical Chain Project Management 2nd Ed. By Lawerence Leach

Project Management in the Fast Lane by Robert Newbold




Exepron is a unique multi-project Critical Chain Project Management Software solution with embedded real time intelligence to plan, schedule and execute projects.
Exepron answers the 7 most critical questions of project management in real time.
Contact us to find out how.


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In a nutshell

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