We provide solutions for:

Project Management Problems


The main problem with getting projects done is projects are managed by humans. Humans try to protect their reputations-they want to appear reliable. They want to “under promise” and “over deliver.” This causes some interesting effects.


  • When negotiating a project timeline, managers responsible for each step will try to get as much time as they can to complete the task. If they can get away with it, they will negotiate twice as much time as what the step takes.
  • Once the managers have achieved their timelines, they can now relax. They have twice as much time as they need. In fact, they may do nothing for the first half of the project. They may wait until it is too late to complete the stage on time. This waiting for the last minute to get started is called the Student Syndrome.
  • The managers that get to work right away and complete the project are faced with a different problem. How can you deliver a stage in half the time that you negotiated? You won’t be able to negotiate a long delivery time again! You will be buried by your own success. In this situation, managers will tend to slow down work, increase features and end up polishing the project well beyond requirements. This is referred to as Parkinson’s Law.


The fact that each step of the project is budgeted for twice the expected time can explain why things take so long. The Student Syndrome and Parkinson’s Law explain how easy it is for a project to fall behind schedule and how hard it is to catch up. Also, Murphy’s Law is there ever ready to strike. Seems pretty hopeless, doesn’t it? For example, imagine a project with 5 steps. If every step has an 80% chance of finishing, what is the probability of the project finishing on time? The answer is 0.805 or 33%. Pretty dismal, isn’t it? There is good news. There is a method of project management that can increase the likelihood of success from 33% to 75%.


The TOC solution to project management is called Critical Chain. Here’s how it works:


  • Instead of negotiating solid timelines for projects, stage managers are asked to provide the average time it takes to complete each stage. This is not a commitment.
  • Instead of building in contingency on every stage, we have a total project buffer at the end where each stage can use. This is normally set to one third of the total project time.
  • The project is then managed through the use of this one common buffer.


This seemingly simple approach is very powerful in getting results. Here’s why:


  • Because individual stage managers are striving for very ambitious timelines for completion, they don’t suffer embarrassment from missing them.
  • Now that all the contingency is taken out of every step, individual stage managers can’t afford to delay starting their work.
  • These managers don’t have time to add on extra features and polish to their stages.
  • The project manager will now manage to the total project buffer. This is the only buffer that matters.


This change makes it less likely to fall behind and allows the project manager to make up time if the project falls behind. It can’t eliminate Murphy’s Law, but it is a much better way to keep on track than traditional methods.


Still not convinced? This spreadsheet simulates hundreds of projects, comparing traditional critical path methods with Critical Chain. For more information, please read Critical Chain