I’m a big fan of Eliyahu M. Goldratt, especially his Theory of Constraints (TOC) and his work on bottleneck management. Goldratt revolutionized the manufacturing world with a critical insight into the overall operation of the plant floor. Before Goldratt, local efficiency was the key metric used to measure performance on the shop floor.
Imagine that a factory had 10 workstations, each with a specific job in the manufacturing process. At one time, management believed that if each machine was running close to 100 percent of the time then the factory would be as efficient as possible. However, Goldratt figured out that the factory as a whole could only run as fast as its slowest machine. By running machines at disparate production rates to full capacity, the manufacturer was, in fact, just creating work in process (WIP) and jamming up the factory shop floor.
To be an artist means never to avert one’s eyes.
To be a consumer of P6 Primavera schedules means a nearly constant urge to avert one’s eyes.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the graphic produced by P6 is a schedule diagram only a mother could love. How did this come to be? Well, we have to start with the architectural basis on which the P6 diagram is built. All CPM systems have three engines: database, scheduling and display. Because of the algorithms that drive CPM, each change in the database requires a complete forward and backward pass of the database through the scheduling engine. Then a new set of early start dates is generated and redrawn.
Because the database is a column-and-row sort of affair, the user is unable to control the path of logic ties between activities. What results is a spaghetti dinner of logic ties presented in such a way that it is nearly impossible to follow which activity is driving which through the schedule. The graphical representation of the schedule could use some improvement, but mechanically, CPM is not up to the task.
When I worked for IBM, I had the pleasure of working with some of the smartest, most reliable people in the world. At the top of that list was a visionary leader named Jim Hile. Jim has a unique gift for seeing opportunities, and he is fearless in doing the work required to seize the day.
After his retirement from IBM, Jim invested in a struggling technology company in the virtual reality space (VR). Through his tireless work, great leadership and a healthy dose of capital, the firm was turned around and sold. Jim saw the opportunity and seized it.
While Jim was running the firm, I got a tour, and a demonstration of how virtual reality systems work. For those not familiar with VR, the most advanced systems are room-sized 3D immersion systems. You can create any environment or simulated physical reality that you want. For those of you familiar with Star Trek, this is the closest we have come, so far, to a “holodeck.”
An Idiomatic and Sensory Investigation of Interactive Visual Risk Assessments
What do we mean when we say “I see trouble ahead?” Notice that we don’t say, “I’ve reviewed a tabular report and I prognosticate problems,” or, “I touched the report you sent, and I feel trouble on the way.” Sometimes people say they can smell trouble, or smell trouble brewing, but most often it is seeing it on a wall, in a diagram, or in our minds eye that enables clear cognition of impending calamity. It’s fair to say that visualization is a key factor in recognizing risk in general.
When it comes to schedule risk, until recently, visualization options have been limited, and disconnected from the actual schedule. Until the development of the Graphical Path Method (GPM) and NetRisk, there was no way to see a schedule on a timescale and interactively visualize the impact of a particular risk on the schedule.
Most conventional schedule risk tools work by importing information from an outside scheduling tool such as Oracle Primavera Risk Analyzer or Acumen Risk. Once the data is imported, it gets massaged further, ranged and iterated to generate a series of graphs and tabular reports. Experts then interpret these reports and recommend mitigating measures to apply to the schedule.
Risk assessment is becoming an industry standard. Unfortunately, at this point that is the only standard part of the process. Unlike, say, the field of medicine, you don’t need a license to be a risk practitioner in project management. However, there are a few certifications in the industry that, at the very least, will guarantee a baseline of knowledge and experience.
The Project Management Institute grants a credential called the Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP). In order to qualify to sit for the exam, a professional must have completed at least 3,000 hours of risk practice. Then they must pass the exam, which is quite comprehensive, in order to get the credential.
In order to maintain the credential, the professional must participate in ongoing education.
AACE International offers a Decision Risk Management Professional designation, which is well regarded in the industry.