Critical Chain Project Management

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If you are a software professional or working in an corporate organization you might have often heard about Project Management and it’s essence in terms of managing a project. But are you wondering what is Critical Chain Project Management?

So in this article we will be discussing about Critical Chain Project Management and will go through how it is used.

Critical Chain Project Management is also called as Buffer Management. It is often denoted as (CC/BM) approach. It was first designed or introduced by E. Goldratt within his novel “Critical Chain”. It was written in the year 1987 as an application of “Theory of Constraints”. It is considered as a Project Management Technique which introduced some novel ideas to the well known and generally accepted resource constrained project scheduling principles.

Using this process , i.e. Critical Chain Project Management also called as Buffer Management, it focuses on providing extra buffer in terms of time for the projects rather than focusing on individual activities.

By providing extra time and resources availability for a particular project, it aids to the overall project development. It is considered to be a clever way of managing the project and make sure the project is met with the deadline. This approach is considered to be a new approach where the projects are assured and delivered in a timely fashion compared to the traditional way of executing a project.

This way the team can be in a better position and have better project control right from the start till the finish point via buffer management process.

In today’s article we will be talking about Critical Chain  Project Management or often called as Buffer Management (CC/BM) approach of project scheduling. All this process or approach is explained in the following six steps:

  1. Come up with aggressive estimates for a project

  2. Build ALAP schedule. I.e. As late as possible

  3. Identify the Critical Chain

  4. Understand and Determine appropriate buffer chains

  5. Based on the buffer chains, estimate appropriate buffer sizes

  6. Include buffers into the project schedule

Each step is defined in detail below for an indepth understanding.

Step 1:  Come up with Aggressive Estimates for a project:

It is based on a general idea that protection of the project deadline is the first and forecast goal for any project rather than protecting each and individual project activity. The duration of the activity can be allocated with an aggressive estimate so that it can avoid the activity to prolong for a longer duration than its original estimate.

The reason why most of the project activity have a very long duration of the activity is based on the three factors that Goldratt has mentioned.

As per Murphy’s Law: If something has to go wrong, it will.

As per Student Syndrome: Wait till urgency

As per Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the allotted time.

So to avoid these situations, one has to come up with aggressive timelines.

Step 2 : Build ALAP schedule. I.e. As late as possible

As per the standard approach, the earliest start scheduling approach is commonly identified in traditional project management. But according to the Critical chain project management it is advised to schedule each and every project activity as late as possible , obviously close to the predefined project deadline. As per the latest start schedule, it is quite risky because it will make every project activity as a part of the critical path which put the project deadline into risk. However this process offers certain benefits or advantages.

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Step3: Identify the Critical chain

The concept of Critical Chain is same as that of Critical Path process.

The Critical Path differentiates critical vs noncritical activities within a project. For Critical Chain is more focused on resource feasibility project schedule where the longest chain in the entire project that determines the total project duration.

The main difference between Critical Path vs Critical Chain is that takes limited availability of renewable resources into account.

Step 4. Understand and Determine appropriate buffer chains

According to Critical Chain Project Management/ Buffer Management technique, strategy and smart positioning of buffers to the projects and managing the project deadlines is crucial. Managing the buffers are of three different types.

Every buffer is catered towards a specific goal and it needs to be placed at the right place to protect the right part of the project stage.

Project Buffer:

This is a unique buffer which is used to protect the project deadline.

Feeding Buffer:

As the name suggests it is a multiple iterations buffer, i.e. Feeding buffer. This type of buffer is used protect the critical chain for a project.

Resource Buffer:

This buffer style also caters multiple artificial buffers which act as a warning signals to the project and also talks about the availability of resources.

Step 5. Based on the buffer chains, estimate appropriate buffer sizes

Within Critical Chain Project Management/ Buffer Management, having considerable amount of sizing buffers will put the project a good amount of safety time to protect the execution is a crucial step. For this to happen, the project needs to be size appropriately and at the same time sizing buffers need to be allocated effectively.

So to be more fair, we can say that the sizing buffers should be equal and more than that of the delays caused within the project execution.

But according to Goldratt , as per his initial information in his novel, sizing buffers should be 50% of the time that was quoted to complete the project. But later on this rule had more considerations and the process has slightly changed.

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Step 6. Include buffers into the project schedule

So far we have talked about the different types of buffers and their usage within the project execution which will aid the entire project. So including these buffers into the project schedule is vital and at the same time it creates a buffered project schedule. This buffered project schedule baseline can be used as a tool to measure performance and provides necessary dashboards that one needs to be monitor the execution.


The difference between traditional Project Management vs Critical Chain Project Management is determined by its usage of buffers within the Project execution time and also making sure that the Critical Chain is intact.

If you feel anymore information related to Critical Chain Project Management is worth reading then please do add those as comments in the “Comments” section below.

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