Critical Chain in Japan

Disasters – Rapid Response, Rapid Repairs

After the 2002 floods in Germany a dam building project was started to protect Grimma, a town in Saxony. As it wasn't finished after more than 10 years in 2013, parts of the old town were severely damaged again. This caused costs of 150 million euros. Rudolf G. Burkhard describes, how the Japanese dealed with a similar disaster more quickly and effectively – by using Critical Chain Project Management.

In parts of Germany, Spring 2013 was one of the wettest on record. Wet weather was the cause of widespread flooding. However not yet completed new and better flood defences certainly contributed to dramatically greater than necessary damage to people and infrastructure in, for example Grimma. For many citizens it is difficult to understand why defences planned after the 2002 floods were still not completed!

Fig. 1: Aerial Photos of Grimma in 2013 (source:
Bild vergrößern

The Japanese do a much better job of dealing with disasters quickly and effectively. The Tsunami of 2011 is just one example. Japan suffers even greater and more frequent calamities due to the islands’ volcanic and seismic activity (not to mention extreme weather). The islands of Japan suffer landslides, earthquakes, Tsunamis, far beyond their fair share. Money spent on prevention and reconstruction is proportionally much more than in any other country or region of the World. For Japan effective and rapid implementation of infrastructure projects is essential. Compounding Japan’s problems is the need to minimize the financial cost. Regional and national governments are so financially strapped that often they are unable to allow builders and contractors a decent profit.

The focus of this article is:

  • How Germany dealt with the threat of more environmental disasters and
  • the Japanese win-win-win-strategy to deal with theirs.

The wins were:

  1. Japanese citizens saw rapid repair or protection of key infrastructure.
  2. The ministry was able to contract more work without increasing funds
  3. Builders and contractors are no longer constantly on the brink of bankruptcy.

While more projects were completed more reliably, faster and without adding resources or spending additional money, the Japanese perceived that harmony created among the three parties – the Japanese citizens, the Japanese Ministry for Infrastructure and Japanese builders and contractors – was the major key benefit. Today rapid consensus on the right projects, the right decisions and how to manage projects is achieved harmoniously and effectively.

The German Story

In 2002 Grimma, a town of 30,000 on the banks of the river Mulde, suffered huge water damage due to the floods of that year. Grimma alone accounted for 250 million euro of damage to 700 houses and infrastructure, like swept away bridges. Projects to prevent future damage were proposed and were to be financed by the European Union and the Free State of Sachsen. Citizens strongly

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