282014Apr

It’s like having a GPS navigation system for project portfolios

Someone recently asked if I could provide an easy way to explain why the buffer management approach used by BeingManagement software is an improvement over the way task assignments and other execution decisions are typically made in the project environment. To explain the concepts behind how BeingManagement works, I often use the analogy that buffer management is GPS navigation for project portfolios.

Here is why:

When you are on a road trip and miss your exit, take the scenic route for a while, leave your designated route for whatever reason, your GPS will re-compute the rest of your trip for you from your current location. It does not tell you how to backtrack to the point at which you left the designated route. It evaluates a number of possible alternative paths to get you from your current location to your final destination, it chooses the best path, and then it tells you the next turn to take. That is what BeingManagement software does for your project when it departs from the project plan.

Unlike your GPS, traditional project management status reporting and control tries to get you back on the original plan before it tries to get you moving forward again, thereby missing out on huge opportunities to make up ground. The time spent in status reporting and in those awful meetings debating whether or not you are really lost or whose fault it was for not taking the right turn or whether to stop and ask for directions, is as just as pointless in the workplace today as it felt to you back then as you listened to your parents from the back seat of the station wagon (minivan for the younger crowd), on those long summer road trips of your childhood.

Buffer management is the equivalent of being told the best path forward from where you are right now, not from where you wish you were or where you should have been, based on the now outdated plan. To get the GPS effect of buffer management, you need the right information in a timely manner. In addition to the project model showing the relationship between tasks (segments of the trip) and relative distance between intermediate points (task duration), which can be thought of as a geographically accurate road map, you also need constant feedback on your current position relative to known points on the map. This is the role of task updating. It is neutral data, neither good nor bad; it merely gives you an accurate picture of where you are. What you do with that information depends on what you want to achieve. Buffer management assumes you want to find the fastest route to the end of the trip.

Because of the old paradigms emphasis on preventing deviations from the original plan, as opposed to emphasizing the best way to recover once the inevitable deviation has occurred, there was a natural tendency to hide the truth of how far off-plan we really were with the hope that we would find our way back to the original plan before anyone noticed that we were lost. In the new organizational culture, reinforced by BeingManagement software, no one is tempted to hide their actual location. That temptation is gone because you now have the ability to take the most appropriate action at the next turn in the road, to know which task to begin next that will lead to the swiftest and most efficient route to project completion. Having this ability creates a calming effect on everyone because you know that no matter how far off course you are thrown by traffic jams, detours and accidents, all the little and not so little surprises of the road, you will always be able to make up ground by executing the best decisions at each turn based on the latest and most relevant information.