Book cover: Tame your Work Flow
Tame your Work Flow

This chapter spends time describing and using Critical-Chain Project Management (CCPM) as a tool generating signals that help organizations control the flow of work in real-time and with a forward bias. I was introduced to CCPM early in my career (along with a number of other scheduling and planning tools). While I have not used these techniques as wholes recently  I have found the ideas they are based on and pieces and parts useful every day. This is a long way of saying, don’t skip to the next chapter. Steve and Daniel state very early in the chapter that “in the Tameflow Approach we are not thinking about the execution of the plan, but more specifically about the execution of the work.” Focusing on the execution of the work requires an appropriate mechanism that can signal trouble coming that is information-based rather than gut-based. 

The authors stress that TameFlow provides top management with timely and accurate information. This information is useful for making operational decisions when needed, not after the fact. They argue that agile approaches fail to support the timely information needs of top management because they focus on team information needs. In many circumstances, I have observed that when managers (of all levels) feel cut-off or disempowered they tend to respond with micromanagement and command and control techniques until they feel safe again. I have been experimenting with the use of management signals (influenced by this chapter and the next few) to provide richer management information. 

Rather than rehash the authors’ explanation of the mechanics of CCPM in both single and multiple project scenarios in the text, I recommend a thorough read of the chapter. There are several books on the topic that I read when studying operations research (shoot me an email for recommendations) if you want to dive into the detail. The twist that Steve and Daniel deliver is after moving all buffer to the end of the critical path, they use a banding technique for signaling.  The first band is the first third of the buffer they color green. If this buffer is consumed everything is still ok; leaders do not have to act.  The next band, the second third of the total buffer is yellow (caution). In this scenario, leaders should start looking for trouble. Steve and Daniel point out that problems in this category are often common cause issues; process problems.  The final third, red, means that the work has a high probability of being late. Consumption of the buffer signals the risk stance the project (or MOVE as we noted in the last chapter) should take.   

TameFlow varies time (duration) as its primary control mechanism. Variable scope approaches (a common approach in agile release planning, but not the only approach) vary what teams deliver to control variability. As noted in the previous chapter, TameFlow’s MOVEs tend not to vary as they represent a minimum business need. This difference is important as the banded buffers allow a conversation about delivery timing and alert top management to make decisions in a timely manner.

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Previous Entries

Week 1: Logistics and Front Matter

Week 2: Prologue (The Story of Herbie) –

Week 3: Explicit Mental Models 

Week 4: Flow Efficiency, Little’s Law and Economic Impact 

Week 5: Flawed Mental Models  

Week 6: Where To Focus Improvement Efforts 

Week 7: Introduction to Throughput Accounting and Culture 

Week 8: Accounting F(r)iction and  Show Me the Money 

Week 9: Constraints in the Work Flow and in the Work Process 

Week 10: Understanding PEST Environments and Finding the Constraint in PEST Environments 

Week 11: Drum-Buffer-Rope Scheduling 

Week 12: Portfolio Prioritization and Selection in PEST Environments 

Week 13: Flow Efficiency, DBR, and TameFlow Kanban Boards 

Week 14: Outcomes, Values, and Efforts in PEST Environments