What Is CCPM (Critical Chain Project Management) Methodology?

Last Updated:Sunday, May 28, 2023

Imagine you’re playing with LEGOs, and you want to build something incredible. But you only have a set number of blocks available. How to ensure that you can make what you want to with the limited number of blocks? 

That is precisely the concept behind critical chain project management. The main idea behind CCPM is that, in addition to focusing on the tasks and time needed to complete a project, it also takes the availability of resources into account.

Keep reading to find out all about CCPM and when to use it.


What is CCPM?

What does CCPM mean? The acronym stands for Critical Chain Project Management. It’s a methodology created to manage projects, taking into account the limited availability of resources. CCPM is sometimes also referred to as resource-constrained project scheduling or the theory of constraints applied to project management.


So, what is critical chain project management? Our definition

First things first, let’s define project management so we have some ground to stand on.Project management is the process of planning, executing, and monitoring a project. 

There are various project management methods, but the goal is always the same: to complete the project within the given timeframe and budget. Beautiful, now you can answer the question: what is project management? We can move on to methodologies.

Some of the most prominent project management methodologies include waterfall, Scrum, Scrumban, and lean. There’s the experiment-oriented extreme project management, and the structure-oriented critical chain project management, which is, of course, the subject of this article.

CCPM is a project management methodology used to manage projects by focusing on both task completion and resource availability. 

The critical chain project management technique was first developed in the late 1990s by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt in his book Critical Chain. Followers of this Project Management method say it is an alternative to the PMBOK guide by the venerable Project Management Institute (PMI),  and other Project Management standards that have been around for a long time.

Dr. Goldratt is also the creator of the Theory of Constraints, upon which CCPM is based and closely related to. After the original project schedule is created, which involves creating task dependencies, this project management technique goes into effect. 

The evolved critical path is reworked based on the Critical Chain Method. To do so, the methodology assumes constraints related to each task. 

The theory of constraints allows a person to identify key bottlenecks or limiting factors standing in the way of the successful execution of a project. Every project has a primary restriction, and this primary constraint has the power to sabotage the entire project by severing the weakest link in the chain.

Some of these constraints include:

  • Each task involves some level of uncertainty.

  • Team members or task owners frequently overestimate task duration. This is often done to give the task a margin of safety so that it will be completed within the allotted time.

  • Most of the time, the tasks should be finished earlier than the time estimates, which includes the safety margin.

  • If the anticipated safety margin is not required, it is actually a waste of time. Even if the work is completed earlier, the successor task may not be able to begin earlier since the resources may not be accessible until the successor task's planned time. To put it another way, the time saved cannot be used to complete the job earlier. The project timetable, on the other hand, will almost certainly be affected if there are delays that go beyond the estimated timelines and, in most situations, will grow exponentially.

The goal of CCM project management is to minimize the risk of delays or disruptions in a project by taking into account limited resources, as resource constraints can slow project tasks and quickly lead to cost overruns. 

CCPM can be used in various types of projects, including construction projects, software development projects, and product development projects.


Buffer types in critical chain project management

There are three main components of a critical chain method project management: the critical path, the feeding chain, and the resource buffers.

The critical path is the lengthiest chain of related tasks that must occur in order to finish a project. In other words, it consists of all the tasks that must be carried out in a specific order for a project to succeed. If there is a task but it doesn’t affect the critical path, then it is delegated to the feeding chain.

A supplementary chain of interdependent tasks that must happen simultaneously with the critical path is known as the feeding chain. The critical path finally combines with each feeding chain. The feeding chain must run at the same time as the critical path to avoid any delays on the critical path.

Resource buffers are safety measures incorporated into the critical chain's resources to guarantee a project's success. Buffer management is key, because like bumpers in a bowling alley, buffers are safeguards for those times when the action doesn't go as planned.

In addition to the three main components of a critical chain method project management, it is important to point out that there are three types of buffers as well: project buffers, feeding buffers, and resource buffers.

Project buffer

Project buffer is one buffer type in critical chain project management, placed at the end of the critical path. 

The project buffer is meant to protect the entire project from any disruptions that might occur.

It refers to the additional period of time between the last task and project completion date. Team members can catch up on any unfinished project activities. If activity durations were longer than expected, then extra time buffers can be added before the anticipated due date.

Feeding buffer

The feeding buffer is a critical chain project management buffer placed at the end of each feeding chain.

It refers to the additional period of time between the feeding chain and the critical chain (sometimes referred to as the non-critical chain). The purpose of the feeding buffer is to protect the feeding chains from any disruptions.

In addition, by including this buffer in the timetable, any delays in the feeding chain are prevented from impacting the critical chain.

Resource buffer

The resource buffer refers to the actual resources you reserve in the event that the critical chain requires additional resources, such as extra team members to have on hand, extra equipment, or assistance from a third party.


When should you use the critical chain method in project management?

The critical chain method is best suited for projects with many dependencies and constraints. If your project is relatively simple, then the critical chain method may be overkill.

In addition, the critical chain method works well when there is uncertainty surrounding the project timeline. 

Critical chain scheduling takes into account all tasks and resource expenditures to calculate a project’s duration. By using buffers, it accounts for uncertainties and changes in the project schedule. 

How project managers benefit from CCPM project management?

There are several benefits that project managers can experience by using critical chain management. 

First, the critical chain method focuses on finishing the project on time. Project managers can ensure that the project is completed within the allotted timeframe by managing the tasks on the critical path and accounting for dependencies.

Second, CCPM incorporates buffers into the project schedule. These buffers account for uncertainties and changes in the project, which can help to avoid costly delays.

Finally, CCPM project management encourages collaboration among team members. By working together to identify the tasks on the critical path, project team members can develop a better understanding of the project as a whole and how their individual tasks fit into the larger picture. This collaboration can help to improve the overall quality of the project.

Critical chain project management examples

As already mentioned, the critical chain method can be applied to a variety of different types of projects. Companies such as Mazda, Texas Instruments, and Lucent Technologies are implementing this project management method due to the fact that it helps project managers organize tasks and critical resources to achieve the most efficient path to project completion. 

Here are a few examples of how CCPM can be used in different industries.

Developing a new product 

Developing a new product is an excellent critical chain project management example. There are many dependencies and constraints that need to be taken into account. The critical chain method can help to ensure that the project stays on track and is completed on time.

Constructing a building

Constructing a building is another critical chain method example. These types of projects can benefit from the use of CCPM. By accounting for dependencies and constraints, project managers can avoid delays and ensure that the project stays on schedule.

Launching a new marketing campaign 

A marketing campaign is another type of project that can be managed using the critical chain method. By identifying the tasks on the critical path and incorporating buffers into the schedule, project managers can avoid disruptions and ensure that the campaign is launched on time. 


Advantages and disadvantages of the critical chain method

As with any project management method, there are both advantages and disadvantages to using the critical chain method. 

Benefits of critical chain project management

The critical chain method can help ensure that projects are completed on time. By managing the tasks on the critical path and accounting for dependencies, project managers can avoid disruptions and keep the project on schedule.

The critical chain method also encourages collaboration among team members. By working together to identify the tasks on the critical path, team members can better understand the project as a whole and how their individual tasks fit into the larger picture.

CCPM also improves the focus of project managers. By breaking the project down into smaller tasks and focusing on the critical path, project managers can ensure that they are working on the most important tasks. This can help to improve the overall efficiency of the project.

Last but not least, critical chain project management offers greater scheduling reliability and helps you optimally utilize the resources.

Drawbacks of critical chain project management

One of the disadvantages of the critical chain method is that it can be difficult to implement. This project management method requires careful planning and coordination. The critical chain method can lead to disruptions and delays without proper preparation.

Another disadvantage of the critical chain method is that it can be inflexible. Once the project plan is created, it can be challenging to make changes, and this inflexibility can lead to problems if the project encounters unexpected delays or changes.


Integrating critical chain project management software into your workflow

There are a number of software programs that can help you to implement the critical chain project management method. Critical chain software can help you to create a project plan, track dependencies, and identify the tasks on the critical path. 

The use of CRM project management software tools allows companies to keep teams on track and aligned with one another. This class of apps allows businesses to control costs and meet deadlines, and it’s also excellent for keeping track of complex projects and making collaborative work more efficient. 

But how does one integrate critical chain project management software into their workflow?

The first step is to create a project plan. In your project plan, you will need to identify the tasks on the critical path. Once you have identified it via the critical path method (cpm), you will need to assign resources and create a schedule.

Once you have created your project plan, you can use project management software to track dependencies and monitor the progress of the project. This software can help you avoid disruptions and keep the project on schedule.


Key takeaways on the critical chain methodology

To sum up, critical chain project management is a method of managing projects that emphasizes the need to complete tasks on the critical path in order to avoid delays. 

This method differs from traditional project management in several ways, including identifying the critical path and using buffers to protect against disruptions. The critical path is the sequence of tasks that must be carried out to complete projects on time. It says no to scattered multitasking, and yes to knocking down tasks in order with discipline.

CCPM should be used when a project is complex and has several dependencies. This method is also well suited for projects that are time-sensitive and require careful coordination. 

It’s true that critical chain project management can be challenging to implement, and can lead to disruptions if not properly planned. 

However, when implemented correctly, critical chain project management can improve the efficiency of your project and help you avoid disruptions. 

One of the safest ways to ensure that CCPM goes according to plan is by implementing project management software that will help you create a project plan, track dependencies, and monitor the project's progress.

These apps can help build your workflow, with visualizations like Gantt charts to prevent student syndrome—so you can meet milestones and get to the end of the project on schedule.