Over the past year or so I’ve had occasion to work several Lean projects in conjunction with the implementation of Critical Chain Project Management. One project has been a huge success and the other was a bit of a goat rodeo which ultimately had the plug pulled on it before any real progress was made. I’ll throw out a few details on the two projects followed by my take on the synergy between Lean/Six Sigma and Theory of Constraints Project Management in the hope that some of you who’ve experienced similar project work will contribute your thoughts.

The first project in which I encountered CCPM was an attempt to implement it to schedule the overhaul visits for commercial aircraft. The environment seemed tailor made for such a tool but the organization struggled with it for a year before finally giving up. With upwards of 7 aircraft going at one time, there were a few program managers who used the tool with great success but others who just refused to commit to it. Those who used the tool effectively were able to focus Lean/Sigma efforts on the constraints identified by the software and were the most successful at turning their projects out on time. Those who didn’t remained in fire fighting mode and were constantly changing direction with regard to which area was the constraint. A turnover in leadership at the top generated a review of the success of the tool which, because it was never fully utilized, appeared less than stellar. The plug was pulled.

What I learned in the first project was that if CCPM implementation is going to be effective, program managers must not be given a choice of whether to use the new tool or depend on the old way of doing things. This is essentially the same leadership / change management issue I saw in the early days of Lean and Six Sigma implementation. CCPM represents a substantial change in philosophy relative to managing projects or scheduling work. If the leadership team doesn’t understand the tool and know the right questions to ask, it is destined to fail.

The second project was in a manufacturing plant. This time the leadership team and the production and program managers were well versed in the use of the tool and they were fully committed. That said, one year after implementation, CCPM hadn’t delivered the desired improvement. Upon entering this situation, my take was that Lean would be the answer to unlocking the potential of the tool. Four months after beginning the Lean implementation I’m happy, and relieved, to say I was right. CCPM schedules the production areas which feed assembly cells which we are continuing to drive toward single piece flow. It appears to be a great marriage. Once again though, the leadership was committed to both the CCPM tool and the Lean efforts.

As I look back over the past few months at the plant, the takeaway for me is confirmation that CCPM is not a magic bullet (are there any?). The tool works well in conjunction with a committed and focused Lean / Six Sigma effort and it’s a great way to schedule production, but it won’t solve process problems for you.

Okay, enough about my experience, I want those in the community who’ve worked with this tool to step up and share their thoughts. I see some great synergy between CCPM and Lean / Six Sigma, what do you think?

Meet you where the buffers turn Red, Michael McBride

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