I spent the end of the this week at ProjectFlow2011, a conference put on by Realization. Realization focuses on software and professional services using a Critical Chain approach.
The conference speakers were primarily Realization customers sharing success stories. One story that I found interesting was from Delta Airlines, primarily because I fly on Delta so much. The challenge Delta had after the merger with Northwest was how many different types of airplanes they had to support. There was almost no overlap between the planes Delta flew and the ones Northwest flew. Over the course of a year, Delta was able to reduce their cancellations by 62%.
One primary change had to do with reducing multi-tasking. Before the change, they would look at all upcoming scheduled maintenance on all airplanes every night and would perform any work that was on the schedule for the next 2 1/2 days. This meant each plane had some other maintenance due 2 1/2 days later. The change they made was working on fewer aircraft each night, but looking forward 15 days on each plane they worked on. By focusing on fewer planes at a time (less work in progress), they were able to keep all the planes running better.
There were a number of other companies that shared the similar stories and reduction of work in progress was one of the key tools used to improve project execution. I'll save some of the other techniques, such as buffers, for future blog posts.