Critical Chain Project Management

Critical chain project management (CCPM) is a method of planning and managing projects that emphasizes the resources (people, equipment, physical space) required to execute project tasks. It was developed by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. It differs from more traditional methods that derive from critical path and PERT algorithms, which emphasize task order and rigid scheduling. A critical chain project network strives to keep resources levelled, and requires that they be flexible in start times.

Critical chain project management is based on methods and algorithms derived from Theory of Constraints. The idea of CCPM was introduced in 1997 in Eliyahu M. Goldratt’s book, Critical Chain. Application of CCPM has been credited with achieving projects 10% to 50% faster and/or cheaper than the traditional methods (i.e., CPM, PERT, Gantt, etc.) developed from 1910 to 1950s.

According to studies of traditional project management methods by Standish Group and others as of 1998, only 44% of projects typically finish on time. Projects typically complete at 222% of the duration originally planned, 189% of the original budgeted cost, 70% of projects fall short of their planned scope (technical content delivered), and 30% are cancelled before completion. CCPM tries to improve performance relative to these traditional statistics.

With traditional project management methods, 30% of lost time and resources are typically consumed by wasteful techniques such as bad multitasking (in particular task switching), student syndrome, Parkinson’s law, in-box delays, and lack of prioritization.

In a project plan, the critical chain is the sequence of both precedence- and resource-dependent tasks that prevents a project from being completed in a shorter time, given finite resources. If resources are always available in unlimited quantities, then a project’s critical chain is identical to its critical path method.

Critical chain is an alternative to critical path analysis. Main features that distinguish critical chain from critical path are:

CCPM planning aggregates the large amounts of safety time added to tasks within a project into the buffers—to protect due-date performance and avoid wasting this safety time through bad multitasking, student syndrome, Parkinson’s Law, and poorly synchronized integration.

Critical chain project management uses buffer management instead of earned value management to assess the performance of a project. Some project managers feel that the earned value management technique is misleading, because it does not distinguish progress on the project constraint (i.e., on the critical chain) from progress on non-constraints (i.e., on other paths). Event chain methodology can determine a size of project, feeding, and resource buffers.

A project plan or work breakdown structure (WBS) is created in much the same fashion as with critical path. The plan is worked backward from a completion date with each task starting as late as possible.

A duration is assigned to each task. Some software implementations add a second duration: one a “best guess,” or 50% probability duration, and a second “safe” duration, which should have higher probability of completion (perhaps 90% or 95%, depending on the amount of risk that the organization can accept). Other software implementations go through the duration estimate of every task and remove a fixed percentage to be aggregated into the buffers.

Resources are assigned to each task, and the plan is resource leveled, using the aggressive durations. The longest sequence of resource-leveled tasks that lead from beginning to end of the project is then identified as the critical chain. The justification for using the 50% estimates is that half of the tasks will finish early and half will finish late, so that the variance over the course of the project should be zero.

Recognizing that tasks are more likely to take more time than less time due to Parkinson’s law, Student syndrome, or other reasons, CCPM uses “buffers” to monitor project schedule and financial performance. The “extra” duration of each task on the critical chain—the difference between the “safe” durations and the 50% durations—is gathered in a buffer at the end of the project. In the same way, buffers are gathered at the end of each sequence of tasks that feed into the critical chain. The date at the end of the project buffer is given to external stakeholders as the delivery date. Finally, a baseline is established, which enables financial monitoring of the project.

An alternate duration-estimation methodology uses probability-based quantification of duration using Monte Carlo simulation. In 1999, a researcher[who?] applied simulation to assess the impact of risks associated with each component of project work breakdown structure on project duration, cost and performance. Using Monte Carlo simulation, the project manager can apply different probabilities for various risk factors that affect a project component. The probability of occurrence can vary from 0% to 100% chance of occurrence. The impact of risk is entered into the simulation model along with the probability of occurrence. The number of iterations of Monte Carlo simulation depend on the tolerance level of error and provide a density graph illustrating the overall probability of risk impact on project outcome.

When the plan is complete and the project is ready to start, the project network is fixed and the buffers’ sizes are “locked” (i.e., their planned duration may not be altered during the project), because they are used to monitor project schedule and financial performance.

With no slack in the duration of individual tasks, resources are encouraged to focus on the task at hand to complete it and hand it off to the next person or group. The objective here is to eliminate bad multitasking. This is done by providing priority information to all resources. The literature draws an analogy with a relay race. Each element on the project is encouraged to move as quickly as they can: when they are running their “leg” of the project, they should be focused on completing the assigned task as quickly as possible, with minimization of distractions and multitasking. In some case studies, actual batons are reportedly hung by the desks of people when they are working on critical chain tasks so that others know not to interrupt. The goal, here, is to overcome the tendency to delay work or to do extra work when there seems to be time. The CCPM literature contrasts this with “traditional” project management that monitors task start and completion dates. CCPM encourages people to move as quickly as possible, regardless of dates.

Because task duration has been planned at the 50% probability duration, there is pressure on resources to complete critical chain tasks as quickly as possible, overcoming student’s syndrome and Parkinson’s Law.

According to proponents, monitoring is, in some ways, the greatest advantage of the Critical Chain method. Because individual tasks vary in duration from the 50% estimate, there is no point in trying to force every task to complete “on time;” estimates can never be perfect. Instead, we monitor the buffers created during the planning stage. A fever chart or similar graph can be created and posted to show the consumption of buffer as a function of project completion. If the rate of buffer consumption is low, the project is on target. If the rate of consumption is such that there is likely to be little or no buffer at the end of the project, then corrective actions or recovery plans must be developed to recover the loss. When the buffer consumption rate exceeds some critical value (roughly: the rate where all of the buffer may be expected to be consumed before the end of the project, resulting in late completion), then those alternative plans need to be implemented.

Critical sequence was originally identified in the 1960s.

Tzvi Raz, Robert Barnes and Dov Dvir, Project Management Journal, December 2003.

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Design for Six Sigma

Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) is a business process management method related to traditional Six Sigma. It is used in many industries, like finance, marketing, basic engineering, process industries, waste management, and electronics. It is based on the use of statistical tools like linear regression and enables empirical research similar to that performed in other fields, such as social science. While the tools and order used in Six Sigma require a process to be in place and functioning, DFSS has the objective of determining the needs of customers and the business, and driving those needs into the product solution so created. DFSS is relevant for relatively simple items / systems. It is used for product or process design in contrast with process improvement. Measurement is the most important part of most Six Sigma or DFSS tools, but whereas in Six Sigma measurements are made from an existing process, DFSS focuses on gaining a deep insight into customer needs and using these to inform every design decision and trade-off.

There are different options for the implementation of DFSS. Unlike Six Sigma, which is commonly driven via DMAIC (Define – Measure – Analyze – Improve – Control) projects, DFSS has spawned a number of stepwise processes, all in the style of the DMAIC procedure.

DMADV, define – measure – analyze – design – verify, is sometimes synonymously referred to as DFSS, although alternatives such as IDOV (Identify, Design, Optimize, Verify) are also used. The traditional DMAIC Six Sigma process, as it is usually practiced, which is focused on evolutionary and continuous improvement manufacturing or service process development, usually occurs after initial system or product design and development have been largely completed. DMAIC Six Sigma as practiced is usually consumed with solving existing manufacturing or service process problems and removal of the defects and variation associated with defects. It is clear that manufacturing variations may impact product reliability. So, a clear link should exist between reliability engineering and Six Sigma (quality). In contrast, DFSS (or DMADV and IDOV) strives to generate a new process where none existed, or where an existing process is deemed to be inadequate and in need of replacement. DFSS aims to create a process with the end in mind of optimally building the efficiencies of Six Sigma methodology into the process before implementation; traditional Six Sigma seeks for continuous improvement after a process already exists.

DFSS seeks to avoid manufacturing/service process problems by using advanced techniques to avoid process problems at the outset (e.g., fire prevention). When combined, these methods obtain the proper needs of the customer, and derive engineering system parameter requirements that increase product and service effectiveness in the eyes of the customer and all other people. This yields products and services that provide great customer satisfaction and increased market share. These techniques also include tools and processes to predict, model and simulate the product delivery system (the processes/tools, personnel and organization, training, facilities, and logistics to produce the product/service). In this way, DFSS is closely related to operations research (solving the knapsack problem), workflow balancing. DFSS is largely a design activity requiring tools including: quality function deployment (QFD), axiomatic design, TRIZ, Design for X, design of experiments (DOE), Taguchi methods, tolerance design, robustification and Response Surface Methodology for a single or multiple response optimization. While these tools are sometimes used in the classic DMAIC Six Sigma process, they are uniquely used by DFSS to analyze new and unprecedented products and processes. It is a concurrent analyzes directed to manufacturing optimization related to the design.

Response surface methodology and other DFSS tools uses statistical (often empirical) models, and therefore practitioners need to be aware that even the best statistical model is an approximation to reality. In practice, both the models and the parameter values are unknown, and subject to uncertainty on top of ignorance. Of course, an estimated optimum point need not be optimum in reality, because of the errors of the estimates and of the inadequacies of the model.

Nonetheless, response surface methodology has an effective track-record of helping researchers improve products and services: For example, George Box’s original response-surface modeling enabled chemical engineers to improve a process that had been stuck at a saddle-point for years.

Proponents of DMAIC, DDICA (Design Develop Initialize Control and Allocate) and Lean techniques might claim that DFSS falls under the general rubric of Six Sigma or Lean Six Sigma (LSS). Both methodologies focus on meeting customer needs and business priorities as the starting-point for analysis.

It is often seen that[weasel words] the tools used for DFSS techniques vary widely from those used for DMAIC Six Sigma. In particular, DMAIC, DDICA practitioners often use new or existing mechanical drawings and manufacturing process instructions as the originating information to perform their analysis, while DFSS practitioners often use simulations and parametric system design/analysis tools to predict both cost and performance of candidate system architectures. While it can be claimed that[weasel words] two processes are similar, in practice the working medium differs enough so that DFSS requires different tool sets in order to perform its design tasks. DMAIC, IDOV and Six Sigma may still be used during depth-first plunges into the system architecture analysis and for “back end” Six Sigma processes; DFSS provides system design processes used in front-end complex system designs. Back-front systems also are used. This makes 3.4 defects per million design opportunities if done well.

Traditional six sigma methodology, DMAIC, has become a standard process optimization tool for the chemical process industries.
However, it has become clear that[weasel words] the promise of six sigma, specifically, 3.4 defects per million opportunities (DPMO), is simply unachievable after the fact. Consequently, there has been a growing movement to implement six sigma design usually called design for six sigma DFSS and DDICA tools. This methodology begins with defining customer needs and leads to the development of robust processes to deliver those needs.

Design for Six Sigma emerged from the Six Sigma and the Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control (DMAIC) quality methodologies, which were originally developed by Motorola to systematically improve processes by eliminating defects. Unlike its traditional Six Sigma/DMAIC predecessors, which are usually focused on solving existing manufacturing issues (i.e., “fire fighting”), DFSS aims at avoiding manufacturing problems by taking a more proactive approach to problem solving and engaging the company efforts at an early stage to reduce problems that could occur (i.e., “fire prevention”). The primary goal of DFSS is to achieve a significant reduction in the number of nonconforming units and production variation. It starts from an understanding of the customer expectations, needs and Critical to Quality issues (CTQs) before a design can be completed. Typically in a DFSS program, only a small portion of the CTQs are reliability-related (CTR), and therefore, reliability does not get center stage attention in DFSS. DFSS rarely looks at the long-term (after manufacturing) issues that might arise in the product (e.g. complex fatigue issues or electrical wear-out, chemical issues, cascade effects of failures, system level interactions).

Arguments about what makes DFSS different from Six Sigma demonstrate the similarities between DFSS and other established engineering practices such as probabilistic design and design for quality. In general Six Sigma with its DMAIC roadmap focuses on improvement of an existing process or processes. DFSS focuses on the creation of new value with inputs from customers, suppliers and business needs. While traditional Six Sigma may also use those inputs, the focus is again on improvement and not design of some new product or system. It also shows the engineering background of DFSS. However, like other methods developed in engineering, there is no theoretical reason why DFSS cannot be used in areas outside of engineering.

Historically, although the first successful Design for Six Sigma projects in 1989 and 1991 predate establishment of the DMAIC process improvement process, Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) is accepted in part because Six Sigma organisations found that they could not optimise products past three or four Sigma without fundamentally redesigning the product, and because improving a process or product after launch is considered less efficient and effective than designing in quality. ‘Six Sigma’ levels of performance have to be ‘built-in’.

DFSS for software is essentially a non superficial modification of “classical DFSS” since the character and nature of software is different from other fields of engineering. The methodology describes the detailed process for successfully applying DFSS methods and tools throughout the software product design, covering the overall Software Development life cycle: requirements, architecture, design, implementation, integration, optimization, verification and validation (RADIOV). The methodology explains how to build predictive statistical models for software reliability and robustness and shows how simulation and analysis techniques can be combined with structural design and architecture methods to effectively produce software and information systems at Six Sigma levels.

DFSS in software acts as a glue to blend the classical modelling techniques of software engineering such as object-oriented design or Evolutionary Rapid Development with statistical, predictive models and simulation techniques. The methodology provides Software Engineers with practical tools for measuring and predicting the quality attributes of the software product and also enables them to include software in system reliability models.

Although many tools used in DFSS consulting such as response surface methodology, transfer function via linear and non linear modeling, axiomatic design, simulation have their origin in inferential statistics, statistical modeling may overlap with data analytics and mining,

However, despite that DFSS as a methodology has been successfully used as an end-to-end [technical project frameworks ] for analytic and mining projects, this has been observed by domain experts to be somewhat similar to the lines of CRISP-DM

DFSS is claimed to be better suited for encapsulating and effectively handling higher number of uncertainties including missing and uncertain data, both in terms of acuteness of definition and their absolute total numbers with respect to analytic s and data-mining tasks, six sigma approaches to data-mining are popularly known as DFSS over CRISP [ CRISP- DM referring to data-mining application framework methodology of SPSS ]

With DFSS data mining projects have been observed to have considerably shortened development life cycle . This is typically achieved by conducting data analysis to pre-designed template match tests via a techno-functional approach using multilevel quality function deployment on the data-set.

Practitioners claim that progressively complex KDD templates are created by multiple DOE runs on simulated complex multivariate data, then the templates along with logs are extensively documented via a decision tree based algorithm

DFSS uses Quality Function Deployment and SIPOC for feature engineering of known independent variables, thereby aiding in techno-functional computation of derived attributes

Once the predictive model has been computed, DFSS studies can also be used to provide stronger probabilistic estimations of predictive model rank in a real world scenario

DFSS framework has been successfully applied for predictive analytics pertaining to the HR analytics field, This application field has been considered to be traditionally very challenging due to the peculiar complexities of predicting human behavior.