Positive Incline Mike Burrows (@asplake) moving on up, positively

October 29, 2012

When will this project be ready? (and some better questions)

A couple of good articles have caught my eye recently, both extolling the virtues of Critical Chain Project Management (or aspects thereof), namely:

Also announced in the last few days: Troy Magennis’s (@t_magennis) new book Lean Forecasting (“Rapid Forecasting Likely Staff, Cost and Delivery Dates of Agile Software Projects”). Meanwhile there’s always the classic Waltzing with Bears by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister.

Here on positiveincline.com I’ve made some small contributions of my own on the subject of planning, for example:

But there’s a problem with these technical approaches…

Is the when will this project be ready question always a good one to ask?   And even when it is a reasonable question, are we guilty of rushing to answer it when more interesting questions need to be asked first?  Questions like:

  • Why do you ask?
  • What will we need to prove?
  • What parts should we deliver first?
  • What else needs to happen for this to be successful?

Moreover, we risk a lot of needless pain and waste if we don’t take the trouble find out what kind of date we’re talking about.  Is it a “bad things will happen if we’re a day late” kind of date, or “I need some cost information so that I can make a priority call” kind of date?

I don’t expect the need for forecasting and schedule risk management to to go away completely, but let me leave you with another:

  • What needs to change in our organisation for the when will this project be ready question to be asked only rarely?

Answer that one, and you’re probably on a good path to a kind of processes that deliver predictability in ways more valuable than just date compliance. Worth exploring, surely?


  1. Mike, thank you for pointing out the articles about CCPM (aspects). One of them motivated me to create a new kanbandev group topic.


    Comment by Rodolfo Moeller — October 30, 2012 @ 7:28 pm

  2. Thanks Rodolpho. Relevant threads on kanbandev: http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/kanbandev/message/16384 and http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/kanbandev/message/16383.

    Comment by Mike — October 30, 2012 @ 7:50 pm

  3. The article from Bruce Watson is not following Critical Chain Project Management principles. He is adding safety to each and every task instead of using a project buffer, not to mention feeding buffers.

    There is a chapter in Critical Chain book on why we should not put safety in the tasks.

    Comment by Dimitar Bakardzhiev — December 24, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

  4. Hi Dimitar, I agree that you lose a lot by buffering at task level. I see that you’ve left a comment on Bruce’s post and I look forward to seeing his answer.

    Comment by Mike — December 24, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

  5. Hi Mike,

    If you put safety in tasks you are not only not doing CCPM but you are fooling yourself. I have a blog post on the topic http://dimiterbak.blogspot.com/2012/03/safety-in-estimates.html inspired by Critical Chain but based mostly on Kanban.

    Comment by Dimitar Bakardzhiev — December 26, 2012 @ 8:36 am

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