Musings on project management: Supply chain scheduling


What can I say here that you have not heard before?

First: We live in a time of scarcity, and therefore strategies for allocating shortages are manifested.

Second, the demand for Dell is driving the price – there is no news there – but the demand itself may paint the supply and thus schedule. Supply will not be directly correlated with price. Why? Because supply is what is allocated, and it is possible that the price in dollars is not a currency. Supply currency may take these forms:

  • Allocation may bring loyalty into the mix;
  • May bring commitment to very long relationships as the price of access
  • May prefer the cash transaction over credit
  • May require large prepayments that did not exist before
  • May require quid pro quo: you have something I want; But I have something you want

Poor timing

So, now your job is to schedule in the context of such a landscape.

You start with standard risk-tolerant scheduling techniques such as those explained in the “critical chain” theory:

  • Make sure you understand that the ‘most important schedule path’ may not be – technically – the critical path. ‘Most important’ is where the critical value is as seen by the customer or sponsor.
  • Protect the ‘most important’ path by allocating resources to that path first, and starve, if necessary, others
  • Generously buffer around all major milestones so that none of them are ‘fragile’ in the sense of project reduction if the nominal deadline has been missed

Architecture may help

Your architect can help you by planning all the anti-fragility strategies so that some missing resource or resource, or suboptimal substitute, will not be fatal or cause a chaotic outcome. Your job is to schedule these strategies in the master plan.

  • Redundancy
  • Negative feedback for stabilization
  • Rip-stop interfaces between subsystems, objects, and other elements

Your CFO may help

  • Cash is king when demand exceeds supply
  • Long-term contracts with favorable financial incentives may release supply

Your takeaway:

Timing with scarcity is not just a time management exercise. All other professions can play a role.


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