In the world of project management, established methods like SCRUM are the go-to for keeping teams on track. With its daily stand-ups, sprint planning, sprint reviews, and retrospectives, SCRUM aims for total transparency and efficiency.
However this is not an article about SCRUM—because most early stage startup teams cannot afford to SCRUM.
To be fair to the reality of early stage entrepreneurs, founders are typically strapped for resources — be it time, money, or human capital. In reality, you’re are probably juggling a 9-to-5 job, pitching to investors, closing client deals, and wrestling with your financial model all at once. You’re spread thin, and let’s not even talk about your limited budget.
So what’s the workaround? Resource buffers.
In the context of project management, resource buffers serve as safeguards to prevent any unplanned expenditures, delays or human resource constraints. You’re like the typical African woman who says she’s broke but just met her savings target on PiggyVest. You’re like the typical Nigerian Mother who goes to Balogun market with 5,000 Naira in cash, with the intentions to only spend 1,500 out of it for all the items on her list.
The Time to Critical Request (TTCR) metric functions as an alert mechanism. It indicates when resource inputs may be needed from either the budget, a team member, partner, third party or customer
What is TTCR?
Time to Critical Request (TTCR) is a key performance indicator utilized in project management as an early warning system for resource allocation and optimization. This metric quantifies the interval from task initiation to the moment a request is made for critical resources or inputs.
The term ‘critical’ denotes that the absence or delay in fulfilling these requests has the potential to adversely impact both the timeline and the overall success of the project. Essentially making TTCR an indicator of when substantive work on a task is progressing.
Drawing on my experience from wearing different hats—from engineering to product management— I’ve identified several instances where TTCR could manifest itself, such as a request for a critical document, access to a particular database, or even a specific client’s email address.
Practical Examples of TTCR in Product Teams
When working in product teams, and you assign a task to a designer or a developer, they should reach a juncture where they need more information from you to continue. This can be as mundane as asking for access to a Document (e.g. PRD), or as technical as requesting the set up of a new database or staging environment.
Each of these requests indicates active engagement with the task at hand. Each question asked, each clarification sought, moves the needle forward on the project. This TTCR metric, then, becomes a tangible indicator of progress and engagement.
What happens when a week goes by without any such request? It’s an alarming signal that something might be off. It could imply lack of motivation, lack of competence, disengagement, or possibly personal issues that are yet unknown.
A TTCR request would normally sound like these:
- Kindly give me write access to the X document
- Are we going to prioritize Product Hunt over Twitter for our GTM?
- I don’t have the brand guide for X project
- I need login access for Platform X
- For a developer — Please share a sample credentials .env with me
- We need to apply for access from API Platform X
- Kindly setup a new database for X
- Kindly setup a staging environment that has XYZ
- What is the email address of the client we’re sending the proposal to?
- Please add this URL as a Webhook to the Paystack Dashboard?
- Kindly activate the Google Cloud X API and give me the API keys?
I could go on, and on about so many instances of TTCR. However it’s not relatively new. In an existing Project Management Methology known as the Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM). TTCR can be identified as a sub-component of CCPM in the section Resource Buffers. Where ‘Resource Buffers’ ensure there’s enough leeway to accommodate potential delays. TTCR is akin to monitoring when these buffers are tapped, signalling that work on a Critical Path or Feeding Chain task is underway.
A Mental Model for TTCR and CCPM
To help make this clearer, let’s map this out using a mental model for a Project named “Nigerian Jollof”. Most startup founders have no idea on how to make Nigerian Jollof — They have an idea what it should look like, how it should taste, they might have an idea about a couple things they would like to see on their plate, but they have no freaking idea how to make one from scratch.
TTCR works so well because it bridges the gap between the chef (the project team) and the discerning eater (the startup founder). The founder may not know why you need an extra teaspoon of thyme or a splash of chicken gravy, but they certainly know if the final dish is up to any good.
So using the Critical Chain project management (CCPM), we can outline all the components needed to deliver on our project.
- The timeline from sourcing ingredients in the market to cooking our first pot (critical path)
- The core items we need to purchase to get our plate of jollof rice (resource buffers)
- Other non-core items, like type of protein, salad preference, native or contemporary serving style (feeding chain)
All these components of the project will outline the requirements for delivering on Project “Nigerian Jollof” — You mess that up, and well, Ghana Jollof wins.
But remember, like we mentioned, founders don’t have a lot of resources at their disposal, so they most likely only gave you rice, some spices, tomatoes and told you to go make jollof.
As the chef (The team) goes about to begin cooking, questions like “what type of stove are we using?” — “whose kitchen would we be using?” — “Are we going to fry the chicken or grill it?” — “Are there any allergy information about our users that we need to account for in our salads?”
As minor as these requests are, each one of them not only speaks to the competence and capacity of your chefs, they also give an insight into what stage of delivery your project could possibly be at.
In essence, the introduction of Time to Critical Request (TTCR) revolutionizes the field of project management methodologies. It operates as a forward-thinking warning system, designed to flag bottlenecks in resource allocation before they become critical issues. This feature empowers project managers to adopt a more proactive management style, ensuring smoother operations and setting the stage for ultimate project success. By quantifying the time elapsed from the onset of a task to the moment a critical resource is requested, TTCR provides an unparalleled level of insight into the overall health of a project.
This metric stands apart from traditional performance indicators by offering a more passive yet insightful gauge. Essentially, TTCR acts as the pulse of the project, letting you know whether you’re making tangible forward progress without the need for constant monitoring. For project managers and stakeholders, integrating TTCR into your monitoring toolkit could mean the difference between steering your project toward success and unknowingly heading for derailment.