Critical Action Planning – A New Approach to Project Management for Medical Device Companies

English: A sample burndown chart as used in Ag...
English: A sample burndown chart as used in Agile software development methodologies, for example Scrum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not going out on much of a limb when I say that, as an industry, medical device companies are not particularly strong in project management. A tool (like Microsoft Project) is not a management technique. Program management offices abound in larger companies, but rarely do you find a systematic approach to defining the activities of project management. The Critical Chain approach has advantages over a traditional Gantt chart, but at the end, it’s still only a tool. We’re really stuck in last century thinking.

There is a better way.  Read on to learn more.

In contrast to the medical device industry, the software industry has adopted Agile software development en masse. Software companies have radically improved their new product development productivity, by radically rethinking the way they manage development projects. To get an idea of what this means, I’ll point you to Kent Beck’s classic book Extreme Programming Explained.  Or, you can google “Agile Software Development.” Kanban Project Management is the next evolutionary step of Agile. I’ll write a little more about Agile and Kanban project management in upcoming posts.

It’s well past time for the medical device industry to change. We need to radically improve our new product development productivity too.

I’ve been convinced for a long time that we have a ton to learn from Agile project management. At the same time, we needn’t throw out the ‘Critical Chain baby’ with the bathwater.

So, in the coming weeks, I’ll be writing a series of posts on a new approach to project management, which I’m calling Critical Action Planning. While I write about Critical Action Plannning specifically for medical device companies, I think it’s totally applicable to other hardware companies too. With this approach, I’ve tried to combine the advantages of Critical Chain thinking with learnings from Agile project management from software and tech industries. It’s a mutant hybrid.

I’ve implemented early versions of this new approach in my own company, with good results, but full implementation is still a work in process.

Here are the posts I have planned:
Top Five Reasons Why Tech and Software Companies Abandoned Traditional Project Planning
Top Five Ways You Can Tell Your Project is Capacity-limited Not Critical-Path-limited
Improving New Product Development Productivity – the Agile Approach
Ten Ways Agile Project Management Differs From Traditional Gantt-based Management
Address Your Project Capacity Issues with These Five Questions
Kanban Project Management – Beyond Agile
Critical Action Planning – How To Build A Baseline Plan
Critical Action Planning – How To Manage Both Product And Project Risk
Critical Action Planning – The Select-Perform-Assess Cycle and The Living Plan
Critical Action Planning – Seven Keys To Prioritizing the Task Backlog
Critical Action Planning – Why “Division of Responsibility” Can Be The Wrong Approach
Critical Action Planning – How to Manage and Measure Scope and Progress
Critical Action Planning – Rock Simple Capacity and Skills Planning
Critical Action Planning – Eleven Best Practices For Managing Long lead Items
Critical Action Planning – Why More Task Granularity Wins
Critical Action Planning – How to Manage Through Poor Visibility (e.g. Concept Phase Projects)

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11 thoughts on “Critical Action Planning – A New Approach to Project Management for Medical Device Companies

  1. Great topics! I, too, am an advocate of project management reform in the medical device industry, and I look forward to see your agile approach. Will you be providing perspective on the regulation aspect of medtech development? In the past, I’ve found that certain design control processes and regulatory clearances (domestic and international) are sometimes difficult to predict. Anyway, great insight.

    1. Thanks Alvin. I have not planned to touch on the regulation aspect of medtech development, so I would love to hear your thoughts as my series of posts progresses.

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