Theory of Constraints

PSGS 008: Variability Is A Fact Of Life

Insurance_checklistHow do you manage life’s daily unpredictable events in your health, travel, home, life or car? Can you foretell when you will need your health insurance to cover an issue that you did not plan for and are not prepared to cover? What about an issue with your home or car? How much would it cost you to self insure and cover an incident on your home, car or your health? Would you consider it wise to use your emergency funds and retirement saving as your personal insurance policy? Yet many executive and senior managers ask their execution teams to protect the variability of every task and milestone and deliver each one on time so that the entire project will be delivered on time and on budget.

We all purchase insurance to protect against the variability that is a fact of life. When life happens – and it happens to everyone – aren’t you glad during those times that you were smart enough to listen to that inner voice and buy the insurance policy that you knew would protect you and your assets from the unknown? Think about it this way.

How consistent is your daily commute time door to door from home to work? What happens when it rains, snows or you find out that the traffic bottleneck you’re in is because of an accident in front of you? Do you tend to give yourself a little more time in the mornings if you know these things are likely to happen at any time? You allow for a little buffer in your schedule just in case you experience variability with meeting your expected arrival time. Okay, here's my point.

Many projects and programs are missing their due dates because execution teams are trying to protect the wrong thing. They are trying to protect every milestone and task to ensure that their initiatives are delivered on time and on budget.

Yet when we think realistically about how we manage our daily affairs, this is not the process that most of us would follow. We tend to naturally aggregate a buffer of time or funds by giving ourselves a little more time when commuting to work or we pay a small amount to an insurance company to protect our health, home, car and life. Well maybe not that small, but you get the point.

This year I experienced a major paradigm shift or transformational moment in my thinking when I attended AGI’s TOC Portfolio Management training and realized the error of my ways in not strategically using buffers to address the variability in my projects. What about you? Do you create buffers of time or money to protect your personal activities from life’s unpredictability? Do you do the same to protect your professional activities?

I’d like to hear what you think about strategically using buffers to protect you from your daily dose of variability!


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