Critical Chain Project Management

Authors: Lawrence P. Leach
Publisher: Artech House

If you wanted a book as a primer for CRITICAL Path Project Management (CPPM), this is not the book for you; it is somewhat disappointing in terms of content and clarity. It sits on the fence between a primer in basic project management and heavyweight project management. Worse still, it takes until Chapter 6 to get to the real focus of the book, which is then convoluted by constant references to other authors and project management luminaries such as Dr Eliyahu Goldratt, and Dr W. Edwards Deeming. The prose is awkward and inconsistent and where verbosity would be a distinct advantage, brevity takes its place.

This book purports to be for the professional [project manager] but makes constant reference to basic, and at times very basic project management principles or methods. There is a constant battle of pro and con between the author and Goldratt, and others, with the author proposing his thinking as preferable. In fact the references to Goldratt and Theory of Constraints (TOC) are so many that one wonders why use this book when Goldratt has written several excellent books around this subject leading into CCPM. There is not enough groundwork on project management principles to be useful as a primer and far too little on CCPM to be valuable for the professional.

I personally don’t think this book presents anything unique on CCPM but rather a critique of other authors works. I found it an unconvincing book and one unlikely to sway the majority towards CCPM, especially considering that very little software exists for CCPM whereas the greater majority supports critical path. Without doubt, the author is clearly well read and knowledgeable in wide ranging aspects of project management, and particularly CCPM, but the writing style used in this book does him no credit and is difficult to assimilate. The book starts with an outline of project management, except not enough for the person new to [critical path] project management wanting to know why CCPM may indeed be a better method. It then presents a hurried look at the major influences to project management such as PMI Book of Knowledge, Lean, TQM and its successor Six Sigma. Even the section on project constraints sheds no new wisdom but merely quotes from several of Goldratt’s books.

Chapter three introduces the constraint theory and contains useful but basic information on resource application and leveling but the constant references to Goldratt’s works are almost a book review in themselves. We get nearer the mark in chapter four where methods for developing the constraint – critical chain – buffer management are presented but also includes a lot of “padding” extracts from the PMBOK and Goldratt. The fifth chapter adds very little to the core subject by outlining some basic project-process summaries. The book doesn’t really get into its stride until the sixth chapter but at last, a focused chapter on single project CCPM but all too brief and with insufficient detail. The next chapter develops the theme started in the previous but extends it to an enterprise or corporate or more commonly, programme basis but again I fear, too brief to be valuable as a reference work.

Chapter eight includes details of proprietary software (Concerto) and project control and the importance of buffer monitoring on a regular basis to assist with forward planning. Chapter nine is about implementing the change to CCPM and the pressures caused by the change process itself and despite the brevity, captured the salient points that project managers need to address when faced with such an implementation.

Chapter ten outlines the usual matrix approach to risk analysis and management and how CCPM simplifies the management by eliminating common-cause variations. I found chapter eleven most instructive in that it presents various matrices that describe how CCPM links and relates to other processes. Its prose is more flowing than previous and this in itself makes reading and assimilation easier. I am all for brevity when appropriate but grasping the concepts of CCPM needs more detail and background or supporting information than this book presents.

Reviewed by Peter McKenzine-Midland – August 2010

ABOUT OUR REVIEWER: Peter McKenzie-Midland is a Senior Project Manager and has 28 years worldwide experience of oil and gas, energy, environmental, and ICT projects. He is currently responsible for renewable energy projects including offshore wind farms, tidal, and wave power generation systems. Peter’s experience is predominantly in the offshore and marine arena and has spent many months on vessels of opportunity managing such scopes of work as inspection, maintenance, repair, survey, construction, and soil intervention such as dredging and rock dumping.

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