Project Management LO22031

Winfried Dressler (
Mon, 28 Jun 1999 17:30:15 +0100

Replying to LO21989 --

Was: Contrast

>Where many projects (anything from writing a letter to writing a doctoral
>dissertation) fail is in the definition of the system and the measurement
>of the levels of (here comes that word again) entropy. I'm toying with
>the idea of multiple analysis of variance on project management learning
>histories to try to understand the variation in the system and to create
>an entropy metric which will key on recursive elements of the system
>(which is typically where the time analysis fails).

(I guess "entropy" used in the sense of "measure for disorder/chaos" - so
the word comes again, but in another meaning. But I am NOT going to write
on this here!)


I think project management is the most chaotic environment today.

Are you aware of Project Management in the Fast Lane: Applying the Theory
of Constraint by Robert C. Newbold? It makes structured use of at least
Demings understanding of variation and psychology.

The TOC approach to project management is based on what I understand you
call "entropy metric". It consists of four observations:

- Murphy exists: there is always a level of unforeseeable events
- Students syndrome: start a task as late as possible, i.e. when the not yet
started task starts to create an uneasy feeling
- Parkinsons law: assigned resources are always used. Never show that
less would have been enough
- Maniana: When everything is important, nothing is important. If I cannot
do it today, I will do it tomorrow, or the day after..

The first being "variation", the other three "psychology".

When a project is to fulfill commitments on content, time and budget, then
project management includes the task to consider this "entropic metric".

>One may,
>however, switch views and look at the critical path, network view. This
>is a rudimentary stock and flow diagram which takes into account
>coordination of activities. In my view, the links and loops view of a
>project would be most effective for determing integration requirements for
>coordination of activities as well as determining the scope of the system.

While the critical path is usually the longest path in the project, TOC
takes the systems view more into account by defining a critical chain as
the longest path of dependent tasks.

The key to the TOC approach to project management is to notice, that
- the target is timely completion of the whole project, not each of its tasks
- but: people are measured according to task completion
- leading to the inclusion of huge safety in each step
- which is necessarily wasted due to the "entropy metrics" psychology-part
- Only part of the safety is really needed for Murphy (variation-part)

The approach is nicely documented in the book I mentioned. The challenge
is to get rid of all the safety you can know will be wasted, while not
horrifying those who are responsible for the individual tasks and still
have just enough safety for Murphy.

Liebe Gruesse,



"Winfried Dressler" <>

[Host's Note: In association with, this link...

Project Management in the Fast Lane : Applying the Theory of Constraints (St. Lucie Press/Apics Series on Constraints Management) by Robert C. Newbold


Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>