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Frustrations from Typical Project Management Systems

Page Contents

Excessive Management Pressure & Intervention

Typical Results from Inadequate Project Management Systems
Management pressures only used when project needs help
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Management ignores, micro-manages, or drives project
Click on the image to see it full size.

Management coaches, helps, assists, & facilitates the Project Team in getting a reasonable plan with sufficient resources assigned to the project.  Once this task is complete, the plan is approved, then management can go on to other things; leaving the Project Team to do the assigned work.

Management need to check the Fever Chart on the agreed schedule (ie. 3 seconds to glance at the project's Fever Chart once per week).  If it is outside the red zone, the Project Team is left to manage the project.  If it is in the red zone, sr. management meets with the Project Manager to review why, options available, & helped define immediate corrective action to recover the schedule.

Overall, the Project Team is given the responsibility and capability.  Management only intervenes when significant variation from plan has occurred.

If and when additional projects are authorized, management is involved to help evaluate the available resources, the relative performance of the current projects (ahead or behind schedule), and the reallocation of priorities among the various projects.
Management is often actively involved in getting the Project Team started and involved, but Management quickly moves on to other priorities.

Unlike CCPM, there is rarely clearly defined expectations for reporting, measurements, communication tools, nor the frequency or events which cause reporting to occur.  Management assumes all is well unless told otherwise.  When problems occur, the Project Team hopes that tomorrow will be a better day, and they can still make up for lost time.

Sometimes, an event occurs that brings the project to management's attention.  Unmet expectations, shock, and a flurry of specific, forceful interventions by Management often occur.  Frustrations increase, trust is diminished, and job satisfaction plummets.

After a significant portion of the available time & resources have been consumed, and only a fraction of the work completed, management feels forced to assume command of the project.  Management assumes the role of Project Manager.  The Project Manager assumes the role of Expediter, and the Project Team members are pushed, forced, watched, and pressured to deliver by numerous parties.

The force, pressure, blame, and recriminations continue to increase in severity and frequency until the project is completed.  Everybody is total consumed and burned out.  The thrill of delivering the project only partly compensates for the personal costs (stress, frustration, job dis-satisfaction, etc.) paid by all.

Unreasonable Demands for Super-Human Efforts

Typical Results from Inadequate Project Management Systems
Effort expended is more consistent and responsive Click on the image to see it full size.

Effort lags project start, then depends on miraculous efforts Click on the image to see it full size.
With CCPM, the effort starts early with the development of a realistic project schedule and assignment of the required resources.  Unless there are specific problems in the schedule, the effort is spread out evenly throughout the project.

Like a relay race, only those carrying the baton are expected to be putting out 100% of their possible effort.  All others are warming up or cooling down, but the project always moves ahead at maximum speed.

The effort required is focused to where it will do the most good.
There is typically a flurry of activity immediately after approval of the project, but it quickly dies.  The "Student Syndrome" (ie. given a week to study for a test, the books are only cracked open the night before) is alive & well.  People continue on with their prior tasks and priorities until fear and anxiety forces them to shift to the assigned project.

Super-human effort is expended for short periods of time, at very low productivity (ie. after working for 6 hrs, personal productivity drops off dramatically.  After 16 hrs., productivity is less than 10% for most people).

The high effort is alternated with lower activity periods as people try to recover from their manic activity phases.  Eventually, the pressures force continuous, super-human effort.

While the project is officially reported as "100% complete", huge amounts of mysterious and unexplained activities continue for hours, days, or weeks after the official end of the project.  Finally, the work comes to an end.

The Project Team members have paid a very high price in their families, co-workers, and their personal health.  Goodwill and the emotional bank accounts have all been overdrawn.

Wasting of Project Safety Time

Typical Results from Inadequate Project Management Systems
Safety time is protected by all throughout the project Click on the image to see it full size.

Safety time is wasted by some, others are deprived of any Click on the image to see it full size.
Safety time belongs to the project, not specific tasks or resources.  Everybody shares the same supply of safety time.  If someone wastes the safety time, everybody suffers.  Group peer pressure tends to keep wasteful use of safety time by one or more Project Team Members in check.

Measurement tools are available throughout the project to clearly show (in 3 seconds or less) why, where, and how the safety time is being consumed or re-created.  The Project Team and Project Managers are able to immediately focus their efforts on the immediate cause of the problem.  This tends to cause immediate resolution of the problem which are wasting safety time.

The Project Team, by achieving a faster pace than what was originally scheduled, is able to re-create safety time that was previously spent.  Heroes can be immediately recognized for their efforts throughout the project.
Safety time is usually built into each task.  The person responsible for the task is permitted management of the allocated safety time as they see fit.  Personal agendas, Student Syndrome, multi-tasking, and competing priorities tend to guarantee consumption of this safety time.

There is no easy way to measure if a task has been able to re-create safety time.  If the Project Team is unable to measure it, they are unable to give recognition to the person who achieved this safety time savings.  People tend to stop doing what isn't recognized, so any efforts to save safety time tend to be sporadic and self-extinguishing.

Huge efforts are often made by some novice Team Members to work ahead of schedule & supposedly save or create safety time.  Sometimes this is done on non-critical tasks, thereby wasting effort.  When it is done on critical tasks, there is a potential for saving safety time.  However, the subsequent tasks are often started on the scheduled date.  The early delivery of the previous task is wasted sitting in a queue, waiting for the next task to start.

In the end, all wasting of safety time tend to be cumulative.  Any momentary savings or creation of safety time which occur tend to be wasted in subsequent steps.  People soon learn that it isn't worth the additional effort to conserve safety time.  The PM system is not conducive to saving and generating safety time.

Conflicts & Compromises

Compromise from the Iron Triangle for Projects (Cost, scope, & delivery dates)

Click on the Theory of Constraints (TOC) Cloud Diagram to see it full size

Above, we can see a Cloud Diagram, as defined by Theory of Constraints Thinking Tools.  This is one of the 21 different compromises that typically occur with traditional project management systems.  Click on the image to see it full size.

This Cloud Diagram shows the conflict and compromises that typically occur during projects.  The Project Team is constrained by the "Iron Triangle" (cost, scope, and due dates) of Project Management.

Due to no degrees of freedom in the "Iron Triangle" of projects, when one of the sides or apexes changes (either changed by management's plan or uncontrolled circumstances), one or more of the other sides or apexes must also change.  These secondary changes are the consequences of the initial change.  Usually, the consequences are undesirable and a compromise.  Sometimes, the consequences are an unpleasant surprise.

Therefore, something has occurred that makes the original Iron Triangle no longer possible (ie. the original project schedule was wrong or unrealistic, resources or time were wasted, unplanned events occurred, etc.).  Now the Project Team has to choose between two alternatives:

  • Reality (ie. a realistic schedule which accurately represents the current situation)  This will require making one or more messy trade-offs in the original project commitments (cost, scope, or delivery dates).


  • Fantasy (ie. pretending that the original schedule, budget, assigned resources, deliverables, technical content, and delivery dates are all still the same as originally promised, and no miracle is required to make it all happen before the deadline.  We rely on faith, luck, hope, magic, and miracles to solve the conflict).

For example, traditional project management "rule of thumb" states that going 10% faster (or slower) will usually cost 30% more than the optimum schedule.

The situation has therefore changed since the project was originally scheduled.  With this decision to go faster or slower than originally planned, the Iron Triangle tells us that either the schedule, costs, or the technical content of the project must be sacrificed &/or downgraded, or offsetting improvements in project efficiencies must be identified and fully implemented.


Sacrificing Original Promises

As to sacrificing the original promises, nobody wants to admit to this politically incorrect, distressing, and disappointing situation (people want to avoid a confrontation, or fear the punishment of the person bearing bad news).  Therefore, the decision and admission is delayed and avoided.

This further delay tends to magnify the problem and consume additional time and resources which could have been used to minimize the duration and severity of the shortfall.  In the end, outsiders finally realize the "official" schedule and all prior promises made by the insiders were a sham, facade, and wishful thinking; far from reality & probability.

Everyone associated with the project feels frustrated, betrayed, disappointed, or that they failed & disappointed others.  People learn to avoid projects as a dangerous place to be.


Finding Offsetting Efficiencies

As to finding further efficiencies, this can readily happen for new projects that get repeated again and again.  There will be learning and improvements occur naturally.  But for mature project teams with similar projects, they are most likely already doing everything possible.  There must be a change in the paradigms or the technology of projects.


Conclusion about CCPM (Critical Chain)

Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM), as defined by Dr. Goldratt in 1997, is the first major shift in project management paradigms in the last 50 years.  Since that time, there has been the creation of practical technology to allow the use of these new paradigms quickly, simply, and consistently.  CCPM is the most significant opportunity for recovering from a shift in the "Iron Triangle" of projects.

Free PM System Questionnaire

In order to build a world-wide database for an up-coming research paper being developed by PQA, we are collecting data on the current status of Project Management systems around the world.  To facilitate this project, you can download a free copy of PQA's Project Management Survey form, previously only available to PQA's clients.

To find out how PQA can help to achieve greater project success through CCPM, call Don Whitred at 519-667-1720 or E-mail dwhitred@pqa.net

Next:  PQA's Survey for Project Management System Assessment

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