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International Journal of Project Management 20 (2002) 143±153

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Improving eciency: time-critical interfacing of project tasks


Ari-Pekka Hameri a,*, Jussi HeikkilaÈ b
a
CERN, EST-Division, CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland
b
TAI-Research Institute, Helsinki University of Technology, FIN-02150 Espoo, Finland

Received 14 April 2000; received in revised form 17 July 2000; accepted 1 September 2000

Abstract
The paper discusses the management of time-critical operations and their dynamic interrelations in project environments. It is
well known in theoretical literature that delayed operative tasks generate a cumulative e€ect, which delays the overall delivery time
making ecient time management dicult. However, practising managers seem to be helpless with this phenomenon if judged by
the often reported poor performance of project management. To control the use of time, managers tend to plan safety bu€ers in
their operations, which bias the overall planning of projects. The result of all this is uncontrolled and unknown outcome of the
whole operation and, even worse, it inherently makes development e€orts very dicult to implement, as the true performance of the
organization is hidden in the realization of airy plans. Based on case studies in various industrial environments, we propose that
project schedules need to be managed by putting special emphasis on the time-use within individual tasks and by ensuring that work
proceeds smoothly along the critical chain of tasks. To enable this, high transparency is needed on how time is used in project
organizations. # 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Time-based management; Project management; Operations management; Throughput time; Distributed operations; Supply chain man-
agement

1. Preamble and contributed to Britain's entry to the EC, so it


is judged to be successful.
A study by the Standish Group scanned more than 4. Heysham II Nuclear Power Station was well man-
8000 projects and compared their anticipated results aged, and nearly on time and budget, but the
with the real outcome. According to this study, only judgment is clouded by the rest of Britain's nuclear
16% of the projects were able to meet the goals set in power program, and the public's perception of the
terms of time, budget and quality [1]. Further on, the nuclear industry, so it is judged to be unsuccessful.
project management literature (e.g. [2]) clearly points
out that success in project management is often judged These large-scale examples highlight the rather ad hoc
according to subjective perceptions: manner how project success is generally assessed. When
measured with critical project success criteria Ð i.e. on
1. The Fulmar Oil Field in the North Sea was late, time, on budget and delivering what was promised Ð all
but extremely pro®table for the owner, so it was the above-mentioned projects were failures, with the
judged to be successful. exception of the power station.
2. The Thames Barrier was late and overspent, and The underlying argument in this paper is that the
was quite badly managed in its early stages, but is ultimate measure of project success is time, which pre-
a tourist attraction and made a pro®t for most of cedes all other measures. Associating the time-manage-
the contractors, so it is now judged a success. ment approach with the main problem classes of project
3. Concorde was late and overspent, but was a tech- failures [3] one can see that time-based coordination
nical success, gave France an aerospace industry, plays some role in all problem classes (Table 1).
Juran [4] has de®ned project as a problem scheduled
for solution. This de®nition highlights the importance of
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +41-22-767-9596; fax: +41-22-767-
time-based approach in project management. Although
8890. the time-management problem has been known for a
E-mail address: ari- pekka.hameri@cern.ch (A.-P. Hameri). long time in project management, the essence of using
0263-7863/01/$22.00 # 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S0263-7863(00)00044-2
144 A.-P. Hameri, J. HeikkilaÈ / International Journal of Project Management 20 (2002) 143±153

Table 1
Reasons for project failures viewed against the time-based management paradigm

Why projects fail? Relationship with time-based management

Ignorance on what other Interfaces between consecutive tasks are not coordinated
project teams are doing The time-related interdependencies are not mediated between parallel tasks
Lack of discipline in Parallel processes are not using same procedures making time-based measuring incomparable
design change control Plans and schedules are not based on same premises
Diverse views on what are Bu€ering time (and bu€ering all the safety) in individual
the objectives of the project tasks bias the true due-date objective of the project
Rigid project planning and Reallocating time in tasks is time consuming because of resource constraints and politics of
scheduling routines defending safety bu€ers of individual managers and work teams
Poor ability to react on sudden changes in Preparations for contingencies generate unforeseen e€ects,
the project environment because true performance is diluted in the plans
Unforeseen technological diculties, Project baseline is not up-to-date leading to product con®guration-related
excluding force majeure situations. problems in later phases of the project

time e€ectively does not seem to get appropriate atten- Following the theory of constraints and its later
tion in project management practice. Even if the theo- enhancement on project management [14,15], the focus
retical basis of time-based management is well-known in of this research is on management of implementation
the project management literature, the actual practice time in individual project tasks and the critical chain of
seems to be missing the point in many cases. Through tasks scheduled around the e€ective use of resources.
the case studies described in this paper, we want to According to [15] the traditional critical path method of
highlight the critical issues of time-based project man- scheduling is too narrow and often ignores the appro-
agement to practising project managers. priate planning of bottleneck resources Ð particularly
Studying how time-based management is applied in in the multi-project environment. Goldratt suggests, like
every day in project management is the main objective in his earlier work in manufacturing, that the use of
of this article. It consists of four main parts. We start bottleneck resources should be taken as the basis for
with the research method description and the data used scheduling. Scheduling is traditionally based on average
in our research. The research questions for the study are experienced implementation times of tasks including the
outlined, further formulated into a set of research con- used or non-used safety bu€er in the tasks. This results
structs. Then the empirical cases are presented to probe in wrong use of safety in project schedules. The embed-
the practice behind the constructs. The obtained results ded uncertainty in tasks is naturally known to experi-
are discussed and suggestions given for practising pro- enced project managers/employees, who mentally rely
ject managers. Finally, conclusions are drawn and pro- on the bu€ered safety when executing their project
positions for future research given. tasks. The reality tells that despite the safety existing in
project plans, project implementation overruns the esti-
mates. This is the very paradox that time-based project
2. Research method and data management is confronting. On the one hand there is
bu€ered safety, which should enable timely completion
During 1980s and 1990s time was promoted as the of the project. On the other hand it is the ¯awed use of
prime performance criterion to assess productivity in this safety that often causes delays and discrepancies
manufacturing operations [5]. The time-based manage- between expected and real outcome.
ment literature [6±12] has highlighted the importance of According to the time-based management paradigm,
timely and well-concerted operations to achieve faster companies are considered as systems with competitive
throughput times resulting in rapid and accurate deliv- advantage achieved by breaking the ``debilitating loop
eries. [13] describes how time has become one of the strangling traditional manufacturing planning'' [13].
most important sources of competitive advantage in Traditional manufacturing required long lead-times to
manufacturing industries. He describes the background resolve con¯icts between various jobs or activities that
for the ``Japan's secret weapon'' or ``lean thinking'' [10] require the same resources. The long lead-times required
by illustrating how the competitive advantage of Japa- sales forecasts to guide planning. Long lead-times made
nese manufacturing industry evolved from low labour the accuracy of sales forecasts decline. Forecasting
costs-through scale Ð based strategy, focused factory errors increased inventories and the need for safety
and ¯exible manufacturing Ð to time-based competitive stocks at all levels. Errors in forecasts meant more
advantage. unscheduled jobs in the production line, increasing the
A.-P. Hameri, J. HeikkilaÈ / International Journal of Project Management 20 (2002) 143±153 145

lead-times for the scheduled jobs. The planning loop research is time-based management. The main hypoth-
expanded, drove up costs, increased delays, and created esis of this theory is that focusing improvement e€orts
system ineciencies. Stalk [13] suggests that companies on time improves the overall performance of operations.
have two choices: to produce according to uncertain The central idea of analysing case research results is to
forecasts or reducing the time delays in the ¯ow of constantly compare theory and data Ð iterating
information and material throughout the delivery sys- towards a practical theory that closely ®ts with the data.
tem. Focusing on time-based competitive performance The underlying logic is replication, i.e. the logic of
results in improvements throughout the system. treating a series of cases as a series of experiments with
The method applied in this paper relies on the case each case serving to con®rm or discon®rm the hypoth-
study research approach. We search answers for eses that are being studied. In replication logic, cases,
research questions supporting the knowledge accumu- which con®rm the researched relationships, enhance
lation in the way time is used in project management. con®dence in the validity of the relationships. Cases,
The data used are cases from the real industrial envir- which discon®rm the relationships, often can provide an
onment with multiple project deliveries and highly cus- opportunity for richer understanding of the phenom-
tomized products. According to [16], case studies are enon and extension of the theory studied [17].
preferred when how or why questions are being posed. To increase reliability, the quantitative analysis is
Such questions deal with operational links needing to be based on the quantitative controllability analysis [18],
traced over time, rather than mere frequencies or inci- where analysis is based on real data and not on gut-
dences. The case study method allows an investigation feelings. Although the cases di€er from each other with
to retain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of their product to be delivered, annual volume and stra-
real life events, such as organizational and managerial tegic positioning in the markets, the operational mode
processes. We outline the following research questions in each case company is the management of projects. In
to study time-based management in the project man- each case the data were sanity checked with the
agement environment: employees and/or managers of the company. Four cases
were studied in di€erent industrial environments. The
1. How is time used in planning and implementing cases and the data studied are described brie¯y in the
projects? Comparison of the real use of time and following:
the planned use of time. Distribution of the time
used versus the planned average duration of tasks. 1. A case from the paper industry and its supply
2. How can the lessons from time-based management chain management is used to show a typical
in manufacturing industries be applied to improve approach of time-based management in the man-
the time-based competitive advantage in project ufacturing environment. The case shows that by
management? removing the possible sources of uncertainty in a
3. Time-based management means fundamentally the supply chain, one carves out the true performance,
management of information ¯ows across interfaces which can be better managed, monitored and
between tasks and passing of work smoothly from improved.
one task and resource to the next one. Transpar- 2. Delivering a telecommunication network breaks
ency in the use of time makes timesaving possible down into numerous sub-deliveries of base trans-
in project schedules, especially in multi-project ceiver stations (BTS). Each BTS site forms a small
environments. How is this transparency used and project with its own location and coordination
applied in project management? tasks. The numerous parallel projects result in a
challenging multi-project environment. Because of
The unit of analysis is time-based management in these numerous scattered and parallel, yet con-
projects. Selected research constructs direct attention to nected tasks the project encloses major uncertainty
what should be studied within the scope of the study. as the task implementation times vary greatly. This
The constructs in this research are: case describes a failure in meeting the planned
implementation deadlines.
1. time use in individual project tasks; 3. Software projects are known to be chronically late,
2. transparency of time-use in project management; and once the product is released the quality may
3. interfacing between project tasks; and not meet the demand. This case concerns a large-
4. bottlenecks in the use of critical resources. scale distributed engineering data management
system and its new version's release. The software
The method of generalization in case research is ana- is in production use and the case highlights how
lytic generalization, in which a previously developed the ``bug'' reporting, ®xing and testing can be bet-
theory is used as a template against which the empirical ter integrated through closer and visual time-based
results are compared. The template theory of this monitoring with links to other tasks of immediate
146 A.-P. Hameri, J. HeikkilaÈ / International Journal of Project Management 20 (2002) 143±153

impact. The approach presented enables improved providing the customers with rapid, frequent and reli-
transparency and predictability for the project by able deliveries in smaller batches.
providing the project team and management with To analyse the change process the relatively long
exact understanding of the progress status. supply chain from the mill to the end-customers was
4. Reduction of project implementation times in new divided into ®ve physical ¯ow stages: (1) from paper
product development. The case explains how a machine to packaging; (2) from packaging to dispatch,
time-based management approach was imple- i.e. the ®nished goods inventory at the mill; (3) from
mented in a technology company, what were the dispatch to shipping; (4) from shipping to the sales
important contributing factors for success, and oce; and (5) from sales oce to a customer delivery.
what were the results of the initiative for the com- In addition to these ®ve steps of the physical material
pany. ¯ow, we measured the time between receiving an order
and the commencement of its production. This deter-
mined the time available for production planning.
3. Case studies Fig. 1 shows that after the changes towards speedier
operations in the mill and its supply chain took e€ect
3.1. A reference case from supply chain management in the general trend has been very positive in most steps of
the manufacturing environment the logistics chain, right from the paper machine to the
shipment and sales oces. The ®rst step from paper
The case paper mill is situated in Scandinavia with machine to packaging shows continuous improvement.
main markets in central Europe. Managing the opera- After packaging, in step 2, the deliveries enter dispatch
tions was dicult because of biased demand information with a delay of a couple of days, at the same time
and the bu€ering of goods in inventories in each echelon throughput time distribution became smaller. Step 3,
of the supply chain to secure good customer service. between dispatch from the mill and shipping, has
Because of the uncertainty and long production cycles improved as the over 50-days class has practically van-
the delivery times were lengthy and production batch ished. Step 4, the shipping-sales oce leg has improved
sizes large. The company initiated a radical change pro- signi®cantly, due to improved and synchronized opera-
cess, the product palette was revised and low-volume tions in the preceding steps. Consistently with the other
products were omitted, the production cycle was cut steps, step 5 has also improved. What is similar to each
from 4 weeks to 1 week, and key customers were tied step is that uncertainty in the use of time and particu-
with new partnering schema [19]. The aim was to turn larly the over 50 days-class of time use has diminished
the supply chain into one well-controllable pipeline radically.

Fig. 1. Throughput time distribution in days (four classes as the legend indicates) during the three time periods analysed, for each step of the
logistics chain. The y-axis denotes the percentage completed during each time category. The x-axis is divided by the steps in the supply chain, which
are further divided into three time slots to indicate the progress taking place in throughput time improvement.
A.-P. Hameri, J. HeikkilaÈ / International Journal of Project Management 20 (2002) 143±153 147

During the change process the volume of the pro- analysis of all the 226 BTS sites in the building and
duced paper tons increased signi®cantly. While the installation process by the time when the ®rst agreed
volumes increased, the average throughput times fell by launch of the network for commercial use was due. The
two-thirds both at the mill and in the supply chain. The target had been over 300 completed BTS sites, but only
variation of throughput times had also reduced during about 100 sites were completed when the launch was
the period. This means that the improved operational due. The ®rst launch was delayed by several months.
procedures were being applied to all deliveries and The targeted number of BTS sites could only be met
therefore practically no slow deliveries existed. This is a when the turnkey supplier considerably increased the
very positive trend, as a distorted distribution pro®le in implementation resources towards the end of the pro-
throughput times tends to generate extra ¯uctuations ject.
and even false demand ampli®cation in the long run The process of building a BTS site starts from net-
[20]. At the same time signi®cant change in punctuality work planning. Network planning gives the approx-
can be detected, ``too late'' deliveries have almost dis- imate locations of the BTS sites as a basis for site
appeared while the ``in advance'' deliveries remained on acquisition and/or provides a site list of the sites readily
the same level throughout the period. available. Further, network planning de®nes how sites
To summarize, the logistics chain analysis shows that will be connected and related to the base station con-
the case mill has improved its operational eciency sig- trollers. Site acquisition locates three alternative sites
ni®cantly. Faster throughput times with small variation for further technical review. One is selected, resulting in
at the mill make it possible to coordinate and plan negotiations for a lease agreement with the site owner
deliveries more accurately in the following steps of the and applying for necessary permits to build the BTS
supply chain. In the beginning of the change process, it site. Construction work starts to build the necessary
turned out to be dicult in the subsequent steps to foundations for the BTS when the lease agreement is
make people rely on the new and shorter cycles with signed and the necessary permits have been granted.
smaller batch sizes. But once people began to trust in After the construction work is ®nished, the site is ready
the improved performance of the preceding step the net for installation of the BTS, antennas and other auxiliary
e€ect was dramatic; the bu€ers vanished as the need for equipment. Either a line in a ®xed network or a radio
bu€ering goods disappeared because of frequent and link connects the site to base station controller. Finally,
reliable deliveries. Production plans could be based on the BTS is integrated operatively to the network.
reliable demand, not on estimates and security needs, Each BTS site forms a small project with its own
which further streamlined the process by improving the location and coordination challenge. Several BTS sites
punctuality of the mill to world-class level. together form a multi-project environment with dozens
This reference case from time-based management in of on-going parallel projects competing for resources.
manufacturing environment produces the following There are four parallel processes to coordinate in one
results in relation to our research constructs: BTS site: (1) site preparation process; (2) delivery of the
BTS equipment; (3) delivery of antennas and other
1. focusing on time as the primary performance auxiliary equipment; and (4) transmission planning and
measure of operations resulted in shorter average provision of a leased line or a microwave radio.
execution times and lower variability than before; The project implementation schedule was prepared
2. removal of bu€er inventories and smooth ¯ow of for the whole network building project by using the
materials was possible when information and average durations for each task according to earlier
material ¯ows were made transparent in the supply experience and agreements with the construction and
chain; installation subcontractors. Uncertainty in carrying out
3. resource constraints were reduced through ratio- the tasks was expected to be partly taken care of by
nalized product range and better planning of bu€ering the task durations, partly to be averaged out
operations; and over the course of the whole project. The project plan-
4. the overall success in time-based management was ning assumed the work to be handed over to the next
good; the average throughput times were reduced task as soon as the previous task was completed. The
by two-thirds and their variability was con- following critical path was assumed: permit application
siderably diminished process±site construction±equipment installation. The
material deliveries were expected to feed this critical
3.2. Delivering telecommunications networks path ¯awlessly.
Fig. 2 shows the distributions of the actual imple-
The second case is about a turnkey delivery of a tele- mentation times of the analysed site sample. There is no
communications network from the beginning of build- doubt about the pattern in the implementation times.
ing the network until the ®rst launch of the network for These distributions are comparable to the distributions
trac [21]. Full quantitative data were available for in the paper supply chain case before the improvement
148 A.-P. Hameri, J. HeikkilaÈ / International Journal of Project Management 20 (2002) 143±153

Fig. 2. Task duration distributions in the telecommunications network project.

e€orts were made. What is really striking is the time rewards for fast completion of individual tasks. Little
elapsed between the individual tasks. Corrective mea- attention was paid to improving the management of
sures were attempted when the project seriously lagged interfaces between tasks. Hauling a massive amount of
behind the schedule and it became evident that the tar- new resources from other countries eased the situation.
get for network launch would be missed. Incentive sys- Still, the project was completed several months late.
tems were introduced for the construction and In the paper mill case, paper was stored in inventories
installation subcontractors by giving considerable along the supply chain, preventing from seeing the true
A.-P. Hameri, J. HeikkilaÈ / International Journal of Project Management 20 (2002) 143±153 149

performance of the system. The same thing was seen in


the telecommunications network project where imple-
mentation of individual tasks took a long time, and
particularly the variability of task duration was a major
problem. Little attention was paid to improving the
smooth passage of work from one task to the next one.
The improvement e€orts focused on increasing the
speed of implementing individual tasks, and, ®nally, just
increasing enough resources to get the work done.
Based on the telecommunications network building
case we conclude that the problems in time use are
comparable in manufacturing and project environments
when no focus has been put on improving time-based
management. Task durations are long, unpredictable
and the primary focus of improvement is on increased
eciency of the present way of working, not on
rethinking novel ways to improve it signi®cantly. This
case produces the following results in relation to our
research constructs:

1. time was an important performance criterion in


this project, but the use of time was not properly
managed; the durations of individual tasks were
long and very unpredictable;
2. low transparency in the use of time resulted in long Fig. 3. On-line monitoring of the bug ®xing process (each bug is
reported in one document), shows nicely that the number of un®xed
and unpredictable delays between the tasks;
bugs diminish systematically, giving the project team and management
3. resource constraints were common and when they a real-time view on the true progress of the project.
became critical the solution was to add resources
by any cost; and
4. time-based management in this project was not progress review allowed progressive improvement of
successful; the project did not meet its deadline estimates when the system will enter the alpha testing.
and exceeded its budget. The quantitative plan is enhanced with qualitative
information provided by the software developers.
3.3. Time-based management in a software development This method of estimation and project monitoring
project makes project progress transparent to the project team.
By studying the throughput time distributions of the
This case is based on a major software development bug ®xing process the project team is able to focus
project, which has produced an application used by a actions on those individual problems that seem to delay
globally distributed user community to manage their the overall process. Taking into account the volume of
engineering documents and related change processes. ®xes and additions Ð more than 500 in half a year Ð
Altogether the system serves more than 18,000 regis- the quantitative approach is very powerful to sieve out
tered users and it has been in production use for more the true problems and to concentrate forces on them in
than 3 years. New versions of the systems are being order to keep the project on schedule. The average time
developed all the time, and the releases are launched in to do a ®x or implement a new feature, including test-
continuously improved accuracy. Traditionally, soft- ing, takes less than 2 weeks. By focusing on those taking
ware releases tend to be delayed, but in this case the longer seem to have often greater impact on the devel-
time-based management was used to monitor the opment process, as it is these ones that tend to be inter-
implementation and testing of the new features and the twined with other coding errors.
emerging ``bugs''. The past development patterns were This kind of analysis also paves the way towards
used to estimate the amount of bugs that can be antici- dynamic allocation of programmers on problems asso-
pated to emerge in the coming release. The average ciated with each other across the traditional software
throughput time for bug ®xes on a distinctive module of module based division of development teams (e.g.[22]).
the system was calculated. The initial plan was then The time-based monitoring enables better linking of
constantly up-dated according to the on-line progress tasks without delays and the work done gets faster uti-
reports. The progress of the project was shared among lized with other tasks. The traditional milestone-driven
the whole development team (Fig. 3). The constant project management approach has been ignored and
150 A.-P. Hameri, J. HeikkilaÈ / International Journal of Project Management 20 (2002) 143±153

replaced by on-line progress control and review. Natu- tion in this company means that the project deadlines
rally, this has not made face-to-face meetings unneces- had to be approved by all project team members before
sary, but with this approach the right people get together the project was kicked-o€. Goals, deadlines and pro-
at the right time and solve time- and project-wise the gress reports of on-going projects were made available
relevant problems. The overall outcome of the project to the whole organization. A standard reporting system
has become more predictable and delays in launching was developed to follow-up progress of the projects.
new versions of the software have diminished radically. The reports were colour-coded to allow quick focus on
Based on the case of time-based management in soft- the most essential areas.
ware development, we suggest that dynamically updated Time-based management of projects in this company
progressive target setting for project tasks and trans- meant putting `all' focus on time in project planning.
parency of time-use monitoring enable improved time- According to the company management, project man-
based performance in project management. This is agers were given `unlimited ®nancial resources' in pro-
achieved by immediate focus on problem areas that ject planning. In the case company's management
begin to lag behind the planned implementation sche- philosophy budget overruns were much less important
dule. This case from software development environment than the time overdue. The cost of being late in a project
produces the following results in relation to our includes the following: additional direct and ®nancing
research constructs: costs for the additional time used, cost of delays in the
following projects, frustration costs and, most impor-
1. use of time in individual tasks was progressively tantly, lost sales and a shortened time period to reap
improved through constant focus on the use of bene®ts from the development results. The case com-
time; pany's approach to resource use in projects was ``fron-
2. high transparency in the progress of work was tloading''. Attention was paid to deploying sucient
achieved through shared register of time use; resources to tasks when work began. Early ®nishing of
3. dynamic allocation of programmers allows e€ec- tasks needed to be reported and the work had to be
tive interfacing between tasks and productive use handed over to the subsequent tasks. This way safety
of bottleneck resources; and time bu€ers remained to guard projects against real
4. this case is an example of successful time-based uncertainties. Resources could be ®ne-tuned during
management in project environment; the project later stages of the project without risking delay.
performance has become more predictable than The nature and degree of uncertainty needed to be
before. understood before ®nal project deadlines were ®xed. An
essential part of the change was separating basic
3.4. Reduction of project implementation time in new research from development and introduction of new
product development products. When project teams committed to tight pro-
ject deadlines, major uncertainties needed to be
This case illustrates improving time-based manage- removed from the critical chain of tasks. Shared
ment in new product development (NPD) [23]. Globa- resources were found to be one of the major bottlenecks
lizing operations, diversifying customer base, and in implementing parallel projects. Project managers did
moving from primarily government market to a pri- not take into consideration the parallel use of these
marily commercial market demanded a technology resources when project schedules were created. An
company specializing in underwater acoustics and example of this was simulation, which used to be a bot-
ultrasonics to rethink how they manage NPD. tleneck because all projects needed it. People capable of
In the beginning of the 1990s, the R&D department of using the simulation software were in high need all the
the case company was working with proprietary basic time. Making the simulation software user-friendlier
technologies with development times up to 3 years. In broke this constraint, as more people were capable of
order to realize the global growth potential existing for doing the task.
the company, the management needed to think how to The results of the case company's time-based project
apply their proprietary technologies in new ways, and to management change were good. After a 3-year change
bring new customer-speci®c solutions faster to market. process, 60% of the company's sales came from pro-
Strong focus in project management was put on time, ducts that were less than three years old. The company
particularly on thorough planning of the project imple- was growing at 25% per year. The success rate in pro-
mentation schedules and meeting the deadlines set for ject completion had gone up signi®cantly. The actual
the projects. This set completely new requirements for project implementation costs were reported to have
project teams and also for co-operation in the company. reduced. Development projects had become more
Time-based project management at the case company responsive to the changing market needs.
was based on open communication and strong focus on This case gives qualitative evidence of good results
time-based management of projects. Open communica- from time-based project management in new product
A.-P. Hameri, J. HeikkilaÈ / International Journal of Project Management 20 (2002) 143±153 151

development. The whole project team taking charge of We started this research to increase understanding of
the project implementation time means making time use the applicability of time-based management in the pro-
in projects transparent to the team and also to the rest ject business environment. Our four cases were searched
of the organization. The improved success rate in pro- by looking at the following four research constructs:
ject completion suggests that shared responsibility for use of time in individual project tasks, transparency of
the project schedule and good transparency in planning time-use, interfacing between tasks, and the use of
and implementation improve time-based management bottleneck resources. Table 2 summarizes our ®ndings
in projects. There are also indications that strong focus related to these four constructs from all the four cases
on time-based management improves the ®nancial per- studied.
formance of the projects. This case from new product The fundamental logic delivered by the cases is that
development environment produces the following the time bu€ered in the chain of activities in projects
results in relation to our research constructs: generates potential uncertainty, which bias the true
operational eciency. Signi®cant variation in due and
1. proactive allocation of resources to projects and delivery times prevents the use of accurate routines and
reduction of uncertainty in the critical chain of processes to streamline operations. Our case studies
activities improved predictability of the project suggest that the fundamental means to improve time-
implementation times; related eciency of operations is the same, both in
2. high transparency was achieved through shared manufacturing and project environments, and that
objectives and progress reviews within and focusing on time-based management pays o€. In the
between the project teams and company manage- following the results from cross-case analysis are sum-
ment; med with the relation to the research constructs.
3. interfacing between individual tasks was improved
by focusing on good communication among pro- 4.1. Use of time in individual tasks
ject team members to enable smooth ¯ow of work;
4. an example of elevating bottlenecks was to make Consistent improvement of time use in individual
the simulation software user-friendlier; and tasks over time was seen in each of the cases studied.
5. this is another example of successful time-based This is a necessary, but not sucient, precondition for
project management approach; the case company improvement of time-based management in projects. In
reports signi®cantly increased success rate in pro- the telecommunications network building case use of
ject completion and reduced implementation costs. time in individual tasks was improved by rewarding fast
implementation of individual tasks. However, this did
not result in overall good performance in implementing
4. Cross-case analysis and the lessons learned the project, since the work was not proceeding smoothly
between the tasks.
In a sequence of suppliers, retailers and sales oces,
each link embeds a certain amount of instability in the 4.2. Transparency of time-use
operation of the whole chain. When transmitted along
the chain, minor distortion creates biased demand Transparency of time use enables constant review of
information. This in turn creates the so-called ¯ywheel the project progress, and immediate focus on problem
e€ect [24,25]. In short, this means that demand distor- areas Ð areas that start lagging behind because of
tion causes problems with the production capacity, unexpected hindrance to the progress of implementa-
which implies delivery shortages. This triggers over- tion. In both of the successful project management
ordering, causing some demand ampli®cation, but also cases, software development and new product develop-
indicates poor delivery performance which leads to an ment, an important part of the time-based management
increase in safety stock. This again gives boost to the approach was a visual tool enabling the review of the
¯ywheel and the circle is complete. The same phenom- project progress by the whole project team and man-
enon is valid for time-interdependent tasks of a project, agement.
where delays, be they real or bu€er inhibited, generate
chain reaction with other tasks resulting in overall 4.3. Interfacing between tasks
uncertainty. This uncertainty triggers shielding e€ect in
independent tasks. Furthermore, the way the safety time Ecient interfacing between tasks can be done if time
is used in project implementation is often not visible to use is transparent and work is handed over to sub-
the project implementation team and management, sequent tasks and resources when the preceding work is
making e€ective replanning impossible. This is a known completed. This naturally sets high ¯exibility require-
phenomenon in theoretical literature of project man- ments for critical resources. A good example of this is
agement, but often badly implemented in practice. the software development case. Programmers can be
152 A.-P. Hameri, J. HeikkilaÈ / International Journal of Project Management 20 (2002) 143±153

Table 2
Summary of the ®ndings from the case studies

Paper supply chain Telecommunications Software development New product development


(reference case) network delivery

Use of time in Shorter average times Long and uncertain, some Progressive Proactive allocation
individual tasks and lower variability improvement through incentives improvement of resources
by focusing on time through constant improved predictability
focus on time
Transparency of From bu€ering to Low transparency High transparency High transparency
time use transparency between the tasks through shared through shared targets
register of time use and progress reviews
Interfacing From bu€er inventories Long and unpredictable Intertwined tasks Focus on good communication
between tasks to smooth ¯ow of materials delays between the tasks enable better to enable smooth ¯ow of work
linking of work
Use of Resource constraints Resource constraint solved Dynamic allocation Making simulation
bottleneck reduced by rationalised by adding resources of programmers software user-friendlier to
resources product palette and on problems remove the bottleneck
better planning
Success in Successful Ð average Not successful Ð project did not Successful Ð better Successful Ð improved
time-based throughput times fallen meet launch-date targets and predictability rate in project completion,
management by two-thirds and exceeded budget implementation costs reduced
variability reduced

moved from one software module development to management in supply chains and project tasks can be
another depending on where the most critical tasks for established. In both realms of business the emphasis is
the overall progress of the project are. on better interfacing between connected tasks through
good transparency of time use across the organization.
4.4. Use of bottleneck resources The following propositions are suggested as a result of
this study for further research:
Theory of constraints is based on the notion that the
use of bottleneck resource de®nes the overall success of 1. focusing project management on time-use of cri-
the whole operation. This is why Goldratt [15] suggests tical resources in critical tasks improves the overall
that critical path should be changed into critical chain performance in project management;
which pays more attention to the use of bottleneck 2. time-based management means fundamentally the
resources in projects. Special attention was paid in the management of interfaces between tasks and the
use of bottleneck resources in both of the successful passing of work from one task and resource to the
project management cases. In the software development next one. Transparency in the use of time makes
case, software programmers were dynamically allocated timesaving possible in project schedules; and
to the tasks being most critical for the overall project. In 3. removing uncertainty from individual tasks into
the new product development case, developing more one project bu€er enables better overall time con-
user-friendly simulation software that could be used by trol in the project.
several other engineers broke the resource constraint.

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