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What is the critical chain technique?

Wendy Aba Etruba Adabie

Grokking Modern System Design Interview for Engineers & Managers

Ace your System Design Interview and take your career to the next level. Learn to handle the design of applications like Netflix, Quora, Facebook, Uber, and many more in a 45-min interview. Learn the RESHADED framework for architecting web-scale applications by determining requirements, constraints, and assumptions before diving into a step-by-step design process.

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The critical chain is a series of connected events that prevent a task from being completed within a shorter period of time. The critical chain technique was first developed by Indian businessman Eliyahu Goldraft in the 1990s when he was working on his theory of constraints. The theory of constraints identifies that tasks have constraints and that identifying bottlenecks increases workflow. Goldraft used the project management theory to explain the hindrances that may prevent the smooth running of a project to be completed at its due date. The critical chain technique addresses the resource capacity issue, task limitations, uncertainties, and buffers of a project.

A buffer is simply an allocation of time that allows unexpected issues to be dealt with without disturbing the project’s delivery date.

The two types of buffers are as follows:

  1. Project buffer: This is placed before the last task and completion date to ensure that the due date does not change.
  2. Feeding buffer: This is placed at the end of a non-critical chain to prevent any delay to the main critical chain.
Credit(https://project.pm/critical-chain-method/)

The image above demonstrates the concept of the critical chain technique.

Principles adapted by the critical chain technique

  1. Account for resource hindrances insists that projects should be built based on resource availability. It further encourages that projects should be treated like a relay race, where one task is completed immediately before the next one continues.
  2. Parkinson’s law justifies task duration. This explains that one must ignore due dates and focus on completing the task as soon as possible. The goal here is to beat the due date. Buffers are used to make adjustments when needed.
  3. Focus on project performance discourages multitasking and suggests that the main focus should be on finishing the most important tasks before moving on to others.

The process of the critical chain technique

  1. Identify the critical path. Identify the series of tasks that must be completed to consider the project successful.
  2. Cut task duration into at least half. This time management technique is very effective to meet deadlines.
  3. Find the critical chain. Identify resource constraints and arrange tasks according to resource availability.
  4. Protect the project timeline with buffers.

Benefits of the critical chain technique

  • Helps complete projects on time or before due dates.
  • Allows team members on a project to focus on their independent tasks.
  • Increases productivity and efficiency.
  • Helps to reduce the overall expenditure on a project.

Disadvantages of the critical chain technique

  • It forgets to look at project quality.
  • Tasks and buffer duration are often overestimated.
  • It requires full commitment from all team members in order to be successful.

In a nutshell, the critical chain technique is an excellent method to use when you want to beat the due date of an assigned project and hand it over in time.

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Wendy Aba Etruba Adabie

Grokking Modern System Design Interview for Engineers & Managers

Ace your System Design Interview and take your career to the next level. Learn to handle the design of applications like Netflix, Quora, Facebook, Uber, and many more in a 45-min interview. Learn the RESHADED framework for architecting web-scale applications by determining requirements, constraints, and assumptions before diving into a step-by-step design process.

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