Critical Chain

The critical chain method of project management focuses on the management of limited resources required to deliver project activities such as:

  • people
  • equipment
  • location

In this method, the project manager is responsible for ensuring that limited resources are in place to deliver at the time required.

When planning a critical chain project, similar to the critical path method, tasks are scheduled back from the desired end date, producing a project plan or schedule. Each task is scheduled to start as late as possible, with an estimated (but realistic) duration.

Resource is assigned to each task, before the project manager ‘levels’ the resource. Levelling involves reviewing the resource requirements, tasks and durations and adjusting the start and end dates of the tasks to make the most effective use of the resource available.

Where possible, tasks will be scheduled to run concurrently, reducing the overall duration of the project.

Before finalising the plan, the project manager will add time, resource and cost buffers to the plan, building in an appropriate level of contingency.

Once the plan is agreed, it is locked and resource must prioritise the most time critical tasks to ensure ongoing progress with the project.

The monitoring of the project focuses on the buffers. or ‘slack’ in the plan, accepting that small delays in the completion of tasks can occur at stages of the project. When the buffer is close to zero, the project manager will seek to implement alternative plans to correct the issues encountered.

Note that if there were unlimited resources available to the project manager, then the critical path and critical chain methods would be the same.