Our March AM on PM featured guests David Neale of Energy Wise Partners, LLC and Carla Kinder of Xerox. David, who is an expert on the Theory of Constraints (the underpinnings of Critical Chain) led the first half of our forum with an interactive and fun game that demonstrated why/how TOC works. The group was divided up into teams with two subteams each. Their work involved moving and organizing colored stones in a timed exercise of six minutes. The subteams were representing projects which were more or less occurring in parallel.
Upon completion David led a postmortem asking the group how stressed they felt with two projects and what would happen if a third project had been added to the mix. “I’d quit.” responded one person, reflecting the difficulty in keeping up and completing before the time ran ran out (much as in the real world). Another person commented that “Some people people had to work harder than others.” reflecting how the utilization of resources was not optimum.
Performance-wise teams completed their tasks anywhere between 2:50 and 8:50, with team 1 outperforming team 2 each time. What this showed was the impact of beginning new work before the previous work had completed (teams had start times which were offset). In order to best meet project objectives, work in progress needed to be allowed to complete in as optimum a timeframe as possible.
The second part of the forum was led by Carla and she described how Critical Chain was implemented in her area at Xerox. She told us that the initiative began in 2004 in response to their being unable to meet their project commitments. Their situation was worsening as the number of projects they were being asked to do increased each year. Therefore they thought they’d try something new and enlisted the help of a consulting firm to lead them through a Critical Chain implementation.
The results were successful; they can now deliver 15-18 programs concurrently to five different lines of business, their bug rate is at an all-time low, they deliver when they say they will, and perhaps most importantly, their stakeholders are pleased.
Thanks again to Carla and David – who’ve also agreed to participate in an upcoming podcast for us! Stay tuned…