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5 Steps: Critical Chain Methodology in Medical Device Development

Most project managers use software that provides basic Gantt chart and cascading waterfalls of activities. Key milestones are laid out and the dependencies for reaching those milestones. Critical chain methodology revolutionizes program management for complex projects.

Critical chain methodology is based on the theory of constraints, identifying the most important limiting factors or constraints to finishing a program or reaching a specific goal within a program. Here are 5 steps to improving program management outcomes with critical chain methodology:

1) A complete project network is created using a PERT view, a backward-facing model that starts with project completion and works backward to identify the hundreds of tasks that must be completed in multiple areas. The complete project network typically includes all resources needed: people, tools, time for each task, equipment and dollars. This alone is a huge value to clients trying to navigate the often complex route to their project goals.

2) Critical chain methodology is applied to the project network, to identify the most important chain of events – which is often not the longest set of tasks – that must be followed to complete the project within the time and financial constraints.

3) Critical chain software creates a buffer that takes into consideration the variability of the project, based on the risk of individual tasks. If all goes well, the project will finish within that project buffer, which ranges from a focused duration (shorter time frame) to a low risk duration (longer time frame).

4) The critical chain software generates a fever chart at any time that represents the status of the buffer. Using red/yellow/green blocks, the fever chart gives an immediate visual for how much of the work is completed and how much of the buffer has been consumed.

5) As each task is completed, the critical chain of tasks updates and continues to pinpoint the most important tasks on which the team should focus.

The “critical” part of critical chain analysis is that it prompts quick reaction if a project moves into the red zone. If this occurs, multiple what-if scenarios can be run to determine options for bringing the project back into the green zone, and to re-identify the critical chain of events that must occur.

At REV.1 Engineering, every project benefits from critical chain methodology. When one of our clients ran into an un-expected funding delay, the use of critical chain software gave them precise information about how various delay scenarios would impact project completion, and allowed them to select the most appropriate route forward – ultimately saving them from some of the stress of this uncertainty and keeping the project moving forward most efficiently during the delay. Traditional project management makes running such scenarios a time-consuming task; with critical chain software, new scenarios can often be completed in less than a day.

At REV.1 Engineering, critical chain methodology, combined with expert program management, is a core factor in what allows us to move 2x faster. We update clients weekly or every other week at a minimum, and critical chain analysis allows us to be as proactive as possible. Using the theory of constraints and critical chain methodology, we are constantly working on the right things at the right time for your project’s success.

When you are ready to put your medical device development on hyper-speed, REV.1 Engineering is ready to step in as your full service, 2x Faster R&D team. Give us a call at 951.696.3933, connect with us on LinkedIn, or send us an email at