4 minutes

The critical path method compresses complex projects into simplified lists, determining which activities are essential to keeping a project on schedule. Typically used in complicated bureaucratic agencies, the critical path method has found its way to the business sector, underlining the value of effective collaboration and time management.

Critical Path of a Project

Software can help with identifying and calculating the project’s critical path, which may be necessary for intricate projects. There are situations where the critical point can be identified without the use of secondary programs.

The basis of the critical path method is using the Work Breakdown Structure – or WBS. WBS resolves the project into actionable steps and manageable sections.

Start with the earliest task, and determine which following activities cannot be completed until this task is finished. The longest, more time-consuming task is the next step in the critical path. This process of picking a job and their dependencies is the basis of the critical path method.

What Is the Critical Path in Project Management?

Other projects can contain thousands of separate activities that cannot be executed without the input of dozens of employees and supervisors. For example, the onboarding process of a new project for a construction company may require prepared blueprints, foundation assessments, and building frameworks before the interior of a building can begin. Many of these activities occur at the same time, but most will require that previous steps are completed first.

As mentioned, software can interpret the process, but conservative assumptions are required, with project managers listing all necessary activities beforehand. Being conscious of how long an activity will take is important, keeping operations from becoming mundane or neglected.

Not only does the critical path in project management help a project to move along efficiently, but it reiterates what is expected from employees. Employees who don’t know what exactly is expected from them are largely disengaged, with a Gallup poll of professionals finding that only half of staff have a clear understanding of what is needed of them, with only 32 percent of employees noting that their managers help them set and meet performance goals.

What Happens When Critical Activities and Their Dependencies Aren’t Identified?

  • There is a waste of time. Staff work best and more efficiently when they are informed of the critical path and the amount of time and resources that each dependency requires. Without clear goals, there will be a waste of effort, time, and money due to a lack of priorities.
  • Secondary tasks will be prioritized. Unnecessary work will disrupt the flow of work in a project’s critical path. An epidemic, a percentage of employees utilize half of work hours on non-work-related activities, translating to failed arrangements and liabilities.

Duration of Projects When Using the Critical Path Method

Coupled with fixed activities and calendar deadlines, all subsequent activities before the initiation of a new task is given an estimated due date. Software modeling will show how long an action will typically take to be completed, as well as accommodate when an activity must be extended. This careful monitoring will help a project be efficient, even if there are unexpected delays.

A secondary aspect of the critical path in project management is emphasizing the role of employees and contractors. Each activity needs to have a designated resource, organization, or person that will be held accountable. Duration, delays, and costs are quantified in the form of a percentage. To help conceptualize the value of a task’s duration and value, I think it’s best to use an example.

In a hypothetical situation where the critical path method is applied, a contractor or a department is designated to complete a distinct task. Reports are showing that more resources are needed when available, with a contractor required for only 50 percent of their allotted time.

Percentages help shift resources accordingly to prevent under or over utilization. Resources in the form of capital and contractor time are used judiciously to make sure that a project is completed as cost and time efficient as possible.

Costs are estimated in the CPM report. Dependent and independent activities will have their costs and time requirements approximated, evaluating any additional costs for extended due dates.

Project Management Critical Path Tips

  • Using media to identify the critical path. Blueprints, pictures, and Excel spreadsheets are the hallmarks of the critical path method. Diagrams and an architectural plan are detailed as a point of reference to help distinguish dependencies and restraints.
  • Carefully review and monitor critical paths and their required tasks. It’s important to understand that even though time constraints are used in the critical path design, it is an accommodating methodology with an end-goal that can change from task to task as a project progresses.
  • Any tasks that take precedent to the following activity needs to be monitored to ensure that they fully developed. This method of project management can be considerate, but tasks cannot be ignored and needs to be factored in to make sure that a finish date stays consistent. Any slipped tasks will extend the due date, which in itself isn’t a problem – the issue is when an overlooked task isn’t noticed, and the due date is forced to be extended under rigid circumstances.
  • Dealing with multiple critical paths. Large projects can be broken down even further into sub-phases with independent critical paths. For large projects that will take many months or years to complete, it is important that tasks are departmentalized. Using this method, you can launch several projects with correlated sub-phases.

When used correctly, the critical path and project management systems will help you control the sequence of events. The critical path analysis has helped me classify tasks that have no float time, helping me break down and conceptualize the impact of aggregated activities and how it affects the finish date.

I – and surely, other professionals – have moments where I am engrossed with the fine print of a project, forgetting how peripheral activities influence a due date. Critical path analysis has influenced the culture of time management and will help your department stay on task while mitigating risk factors.