(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

There are several recommended critical chain management (CCM) scheduling methods when planning logistics for any exercise or deployment with an understaffed headquarters and headquarters battalion (HHBn) staff or any understaffed unit/section. Throughout many exercises, the 1st Infantry Division (1ID) typically deployed three command posts: division main, division tactical command post, and sustainment area command post. Each command post maneuvered independently between the distinct training areas supported and sustained by the HHBn. Based on the current structure of a division HHBn, the HHBn staff is a shell of an actual battalion staff. The companies are similarly short-staffed, and most personnel in the battalion are actual members of the division staff. The battalion then borrows personnel from outside units to keep up with tasks. To plan effectively and efficiently before deployment and execution, and with outside factors such as COVID-19 shortening the window for planning logistics, HHBn used the CCM scheduling (Gantt chart) as a tool to plan logistics and to manage the shortage of resources across the board effectively.

We did not manage the timeline with activity due dates and milestones primarily but by using buffer management. As we completed activities, the BN S-3 kept track of the consumed buffer. If there is some predetermined proportion of the buffer remaining, everything was well. We could also identify conflicts with tasks scheduled in parallel, ahead of time, with competing resources concerning space and time using a Gantt chart (bar chart that helps track parallel tasks).

Instead of using the traditional Critical Path Method (CPM) for creating the baseline schedule, we used the CCM. Eric E Rohr wrote in, Adapting Critical Chain Project Management to Army Engineer Construction Projects in the Spring of 2017 that Goldratt (1998) describes "the biggest killer of lead time, CPM assign buffers to each task performed in a schedule which often overestimates and unrealistic." Using CCM for this baseline schedule helped us manage a more "realistic" timeline, given most tasks had little to no buffer, which would not be suitable for a CPM schedule. Incorporating buffer to the end of each critical chain of activities/events helped us paint a practical picture of the schedule when briefing subordinate units or higher-ups.

We developed a baseline schedule based on key tasks identified from division and brigade operation orders and incorporated time and space elements. Most schedules start with a work breakdown structure which we could then assign resources to create a resource-loaded schedule.  We incorporated buffers to the end of the critical chain of activities to account for any delays (i.e., weather, last-minute resource shortfalls, operational delays). We expected backup resources as part of a risk management plan.

In a recent article in Army Sustainment, Maj. Kevin Krupski wrote, “A problem of any headquarters unit is finding time to do primary staff functions and train on individual and collective war-fighting tasks. The same Soldiers that the headquarters relies on to man its most casualty producing direct fire weapons must also repair vehicles in the motor pool, run company supply rooms, conduct intelligence analysis, and execute other essential jobs.”  Operations planning should factor in individual to collective training for the fiscal year to mitigate these constraints imposed on the battalion, based on the mission-essential task list.

Logistics planning involves current and future planning efforts to support the division's vision, mission, and goals for each fiscal year. HHBn incorporated taking care of families as part of the deployment plan besides COVID-19 mitigation and testing as part of the timeline. Having proper communications at different sites is vital in ensuring the success of the logistics plan and ensuring a shared understanding of the plan with all stakeholders involved. In the CALL Newsletter Volume IV, September 2016, Jerome Hilliard Jerome wrote, "One of the greatest challenges battalions face while executing operations is proper time management. Given the high operational tempo, many battalion staff personnel fail in managing their available time for mission planning." During planning, HHBn prioritized what tasks needed accomplishing and prioritized each task as inputted onto the overall baseline schedule. The timeline incorporated considerations of division, battalion, and company key events and milestones across space and time.

Using CCM for Army logistics planning and scheduling is not easy for individuals who are not experienced in using it. Given the shortage of resources in an HHBn coupled with a complex schedule for any overseas deployment to plan logistically, one can fathom how important it is to train and educate Army personnel on such elaborate tools to make even the most challenging projects or tasks much easier to manage. Issues with project overruns are often a result of ineffective planning combined with a lack of adaptability and flexibility.

Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) is seen as a more effective tool compared to CPPM based on applicability and purpose. This method helps managers and stakeholders realistically manage a buffer for tasks on a project or Army mission.  “CCPM may give project managers more flexibility and control while shortening the overall length of a project, saving time and money,” said Eric Rohr In, Adapting Critical Chain Project Management to Army Engineer Construction Projects, spring 2017. CCPM has been an effective tool in scheduling logistics planning for the HHBn during deployments and redeployments and is recommended for its effectiveness.  With today’s Army culture composed of understaffed and time-constrained units, having tools for efficiency such as CCM for scheduling can reduce a lot of the stress in keeping up with day-to-day and long-term tasks and missions.

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Capt. Julee R. Thomas is currently a student at the Military Intelligence Captain’s Career Course at Fort Huachuca, AZ.  Thomas has a Master of Civil Engineering degree with a focus on Project Management.

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This content is published online in conjunction with the Oct-Dec 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.

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