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What Is Event Chain Methodology in Project Management? Meaning & Principles Explained in 2024

Projects can become messy if you don’t plan for unexpected events that can affect project tasks. Fortunately, event chain methodology (ECM) can help you identify and prepare for such events. Join us as we look at ECM and how it can help you save the day.

Brett DayAleksander HougenSimona Ivanovski

Written by Brett Day (Writer, Editor)

Reviewed by Aleksander Hougen (Co-Chief Editor)

Facts checked by Simona Ivanovski (Fact-Checker)

Last Updated: 2024-06-10T20:44:39+00:00

All our content is written fully by humans; we do not publish AI writing. Learn more here.

Key Takeaways: Event Chain Methodology
  • Event chain methodology is a technique that project leaders use during the project scheduling phase. It can help them identify external events and risks that could significantly impact a project.
  • In theory, ECM should help project teams manage unexpected events. By identifying and planning for events ahead of time, teams should be able to efficiently nip risks, issues and events in the bud as soon as they occur.
  • ECM should not be confused with full project management methods like the Critical Path Method or Critical Chain Project Management. ECM is a risk-analysis technique that can be used with these methodologies and other frameworks.

Facts & Expert Analysis About Event Chain Methodology (ECM)

  • Success rates: ECM can help project teams achieve success. However, project teams with a mature planning system only meet 77% of their goals, while teams with a less mature system of processes only meet 56% of their goals.1 Using all the tools you can to help navigate projects is essential.
  • Event chain methodology phenomenon: ECM can create wacky issues. Examples include external events that can cause completed activities to be repeated, event chains and risk mitigation plans being applied to several events, and resource issues causing resources to shift from one problem to another.
  • Monte Carlo or bust: ECM uses a method called Monte Carlo simulation to create quantitative data for managers. This mathematical algorithm sees managers apply values to events and risks. The simulation is run multiple times until enough data has been gathered to obtain average probabilities of an event or risk occurring.

Project managers spend a lot of time planning projects and often utilize the best project management software for help. Still, even the most well-planned projects can go south if you fail to account for risks and uncertain events. However, if you plan for risks and external events using event chain methodology, you can significantly reduce the risk of project failure.

If you’re unfamiliar with event chain methodology, stick around. Below, we’ll explain what it is and how it can help you create better project schedules by factoring in risks and external events. We’ll also cover the six principles of the method and go over an example to illustrate how valuable this technique can be. Let’s dive in.

Meaning: What Is Event Chain Methodology (ECM)?

Event chain methodology (ECM) is a scheduling concept that a project manager can use to evaluate risks and events, their interrelationships (chain of events) and their impact on a project. The method can also help teams determine the chances of critical events occurring by using a mathematical technique called Monte Carlo simulation (we’ll cover this later).

monday sprints
Event chain methodology is a risk-analysis technique that can be used with Agile frameworks like Scrum (pictured above) and traditional methods like Waterfall.

Once a project schedule has been created and potential risks and events have been identified, project leaders can mitigate the negative effects that uncertain events can have on the project. ECM can be used alongside Agile frameworks and traditional project management methodologies like Waterfall.

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It’s important to note that ECM is not a complete project management methodology and should not be confused with the Critical Path Method or Critical Chain Project Management. It is just an uncertainty model that can be used with these and other methods and frameworks, like Scrum and Kanban, to paint a better picture of risks and likely outcomes.

Event Chain Examples

Now that we’ve introduced the event chain method, it’s time to examine how it works. The idea is for the manager to plot out a chain of events that could occur during a project’s life cycle. This includes plotting all expected tasks and milestones. Once the expected events have been accounted for, it’s time to plot variables or risks and issues that could impact the project.

jira backlog management
Backlog management during a software development project would be considered an expected event in the event chain method.

Let’s think about a software development project. You planned the project and have refined the backlog. You start the project, but then the client drops a bombshell — they want to add a complex feature that wasn’t on your radar. Now, you must recalculate the project duration, adjust budgets and determine whether you have the right resources.

The event chain method, which is a schedule network analysis technique, can help you plan for unforeseen events like this. For example, during planning, you may have added a buffer to the budget and the finish date to account for extra work, or you may have predicted a need for more resources and can bring in an expert developer to help create complex features.

Though event chain methodology is not a substitute for a full risk mitigation plan, it can certainly help project leaders create project schedules, visualize multiple events (both expected and unexpected) and create event chains that can help teams generate robust risk management plans.

How Is Event Chain Methodology Useful for Project Schedules? 

The event chain concept can help a project manager create a detailed schedule full of tasks, milestones and potential issues that could derail a project. Additionally, the method has several other benefits, including:

  • Reduced scheduling biases: Event chain methodology can help alleviate biases by steering senior managers to make scheduling decisions based on statistical distributions and data. Schedules and resource allocation plans made without quantitative data can lead management to create unrealistic schedules.
  • Simplified risk management and analysis: Using ECM can make project risk analysis easier, as it allows teams to visualize potential issues using task management tools like Gantt charts. If your current software doesn’t support Gantt charts, you should check out our roundup of the best Gantt chart software.
  • Increased accuracy: Identifying critical chains while creating a project schedule allows project teams to see how possible events and risks can affect individual tasks and the entire project. Quantitative analysis allows entire project teams to make more informed decisions and use better processes to help them mitigate potential risks.

monday risk
The event chain method won’t replace a full risk mitigation plan, but it can
certainly help uncover potential unexpected events.

Key Principles of Event Chain Methodology 

Like many other methodologies, ECM is based on key principles. Below, we’ll examine six principles that project managers should consider when using ECM.

Chain of Events

Anyone creating project schedules must understand what a chain of events is. In ECM, a chain of events is when one project event leads to another. One event can impact a single event or many events throughout a project.

Critical Event Chains

A critical event chain is a series of unexpected events that can tremendously impact a project. By formulating plans during the scheduling process, teams can identify risks before a project begins and formulate plans to handle negative impacts from the events should they occur.

Traditional Monte Carlo Analysis

The traditional Monte Carlo simulation method is a mathematical process used to calculate the probable outcomes of events and event chains identified during the project planning stage. Project leaders input data and values related to variables into spreadsheets or other software to run the simulation and gather quantitative data. 

This multiple-probability simulation must be run repeatedly until enough data from random samples is gathered. Simple simulations can be run on a personal computer, but complex data sets will require immense processing power. Still, it’s a popular method used in project management, investment, engineering, manufacturing and other industries.

Applying Updated Data

Project teams need to use the most up-to-date data to help them track project progress and calculate the outcomes of events and critical event chains. Up-to-date data can prevent teams from planning for unrealistic events.

Event Chain Diagrams

Project leaders use event chain diagrams to help them visualize tasks and the possible risks and unexpected events that can be associated with them. One of the most popular tools for visualizing event chains is Gantt charts. Charts can help identify tasks, critical events (unexpected or external events) and local events (expected events).

gantt chart
Project leaders can use Gantt charts to show the relationships between
global events, risks and external events.

Other event chain diagrams can include upward-facing arrows to indicate potential opportunities and downward-facing arrows to indicate risks; colors (like red, orange and green), which can be used to show risk probabilities; and arrows that vary in size based on the size of the risk.

Risk Impact & Timing

Tasks in real-life projects are not protected. External events can impact current tasks and tasks down the line. When an event occurs during a task or an activity, probabilities can be assigned using statistical distribution (common and uncommon values). However, keep in mind that certain events can cause other events, which can drastically alter a project’s path. 

Final Thoughts 

No project is perfect, and unexpected events can cause disruptions. Still, with proper planning during the project scheduling phase, the event chain method can help you plan for critical chains of events. Though ECM should not be used as a replacement for a risk mitigation plan, it can help you schedule project tasks and plan for risks and issues.

What’s your experience with planning for events and critical chains? Do you feel traditional Monte Carlo simulations help with identifying critical events? Do you use Gantt charts or other diagrams to help you visualize multiple events? Let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading.

FAQ: Event Chain Methodology

  • The pros of event chain methodology include being able to identify external threats and events before a project begins and scheduling tasks without bias. The biggest con of ECM is that managers can often forget to see risks as potential opportunities while managing events.

  • The theory behind the chain of events is that no project, including its associated tasks, is immune to an external event. Therefore, project leaders should plan for potential risks ahead of time to efficiently deal with issues and risks if and when they arise.

  • Chain methodology is the process of examining potentially impactful relationships between tasks, risks and external factors.

Sources:

  1. PMI-Pulse (Page 5)
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