In this blog my personal background why I’m spending an enormous amount of time and effort in developing a new multi project management approach.
My TOC background
As a Goldratt TOC application expert I have seen many cases where at one moment all projects appeared to be in good shape and in a matter of weeks all the projects fell over one-by-one.
During these cases I was very focused on the progress of projects; in TOC terms the progress of the Critical Chain. When a resource had to choose between a task on a critical or a feeding chain, the priority mechanism enforced resource allocation into the direction of the Critical chain. Result is consumption of the feeding buffers. The problems started when no buffer time of the feeding buffers was left. Non-constrains became constraints. This is where the snowball effect starts.
In fact the feeding buffers were hiding a huge resource capacity problem! At the moment it was detected in the projects, it was already too late, there was no protective capacity left to solve the problems.
The core idea
Seeing all the problems in practice, we started to shift from focusing on projects progress to resource progress. The core idea behind it is if resources are allocated in an optimal way, balanced progress of all projects in the portfolio will be the effect. Simulations and first field experiences support this in practice. This is why the statement of this blog site is:
Manage your Resources and your projects will FLOW
In practice it appeared that commonly used approaches are focusing on projects. We discovered a significant performance increase by showing objective priorities over all projects together with a clear status of the progress of all resource groups. In all cases significant less management overhead was required to allocate resources and to manage projects. Even in large companies resources became pro-active and significant more efficient and the output of increased significantly. The resource teams started to become self organizing teams. We solved one of the major problems of project managers: fighting for resources.
These insights encouraged me to start my PhD about resource allocation in a multi project environment and to develop product like FLOW MPM to support it.
Why not stick to Agile Scrum?
Scrum is a perfect approach to deal with the uncertainty within projects. No rigid plans but a dynamic approach and high interactions with the customer during the development process. I love the stand-up meetings where on day-to-day bases the priorities are set, resources of the multidisciplinary team are allocated, and issues to be solved for that day are addressed. This all without management interference or complex systems!
But scrum is not a multi-project solution. It is a multiple-single project solution, using dedicated teams. By doing this, scrum kills the number 1 disturbance in a multi project environment: the non-availability of resources. This is why it so successful and beloved by engineers and project managers. Projects can be delivered in no time. But speed is not for free! The price for speed is efficiency. Dedicated project teams are extremely expensive! To get more out of your company, scare resource must be shared! The scrum-of-scrum meeting should be supported with an excellent view of the resource status of the different skills. It should be obvious to the ambassadors, scrum masters and the resources themselves where to allocate their scarce capacity on the spot. This part will be our contribution!
Why not stick to Lean?
Lean in combination with TOC for example, is a strong couple. Focus on the constraint, reduce the waste and the output of the total company will increase. The good thing is that this is a resource focus instead of a project focus: All projects will benefit from this lean effort, now and in the future.
This works fine, till appears that the constraint start jumping. Non-constraints are becoming constraints. How to manage this? Focusing on the constraint is not enough in a lean environment. An overview is needed of the status of all resources. If one resource group is in trouble, we must know it immediately. We must also know immediately if there is capacity available to help and where lean should be applied in the organization. This part will be our contribution!
There are of course more approaches to manage a project portfolio than these examples. But the more I study, the more I’m becoming aware that the majority of the current approaches stems from the 1960-ties. Gantt even form over 100 years ago. They are all single project solutions applied in a multi-project setting, including TOC and also Scrum.
We discovered a way to manage a project portfolio with proper resource management. Scholars agree that resource allocation is the main problem of managing a multi-project environment and that managers don’t have clue how to handle this problem effectively. We do, we have proven it in practice and we are currently proving it scientifically. This really drives me to develop new smart, simple solutions, which can be used together with current great approaches like scrum, lean and kanban to manage a project portfolio in a way of you could not imagine before.
Hope to see you soon reading my next blog!