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12 December 2022 | Posted by angela.tuduri

The Critical Path Method in Project Management

Flexibility in the development of a project is capable of changing the results and success of it.

The critical path method in project management, in terms of the progress and roadmap of any plan, refers to the tasks guiding and supporting the achievement of the project objectives.   

There are certain methods that, when properly implemented, help project managers to establish an action plan for identifying those risky or critical tasks that may jeopardize the achievement of the project. The critical path method, as its name suggests, refers to the system helping us to detect those actions/tasks necessary to ensure the flexibility of any type of project.   

The critical path method was first implemented in projects at the end of the 50's. Do you want to know the keys to this system? Here we give you the answers in this post.   

The critical path   

Identifying the most important tasks in a project schedule and establishing a path to reduce risks and costs is the main purpose of the method.   

As mentioned by the PMI - Project Management Institute in its community platform, knowing the duration of the actions, their planning, prioritization of tasks and flexibility will be the perfect help to get a general idea of the project's perspective.   

In other words, the critical path method encourages us to delve into the most complex tasks of the project in order to draw up an effective roadmap.   

The Critical Path Method (CPM) is the real, honest-to-goodness result of progressive management's active search for better ways of doing things." James E. Kelley, Jr. and Morgan R. Walker  

James Kelley and Morgan Walker, founders of the Critical Path Method (CPM) formula, discovered a new need when it came to planning and controlling the project at hand. Storage, data retrieval, estimating and scheduling were becoming problem areas. Consequently, they decided to establish a method that would be able to control those areas of risk and ensure the success of the plan.   

What it is   

The main purpose of any project is directly related to the execution in time and its alignment with the objectives.  

The critical path method is an approach used in project management to determine the order in which tasks should be performed. Essentially it is a way of planning and managing a project. This method allows organizations to complete their projects within a given time frame. It also prevents projects from becoming unnecessarily complicated and time-consuming.     

Facilitating the modeling of the components involved in a project with the objective of evaluating the dependency of tasks, deliverables and actions is what the critical path method teaches us. This helps us to establish an optimal timeline and to stably follow all the changes in a project.   

One of the most outstanding features of the critical path method is that a task cannot be started if the previous one has not been completed. This allows us to control all actions, linking tasks and time estimates by all parties involved in the project.   

Project managers use a critical path to ensure that their teams are built on time.  It is essentially a roadmap for any type of project that ensures that no step is missed. It ensures that each step leads directly to the end result.    

Critical path analysis   

The critical path method helps us establish a sure path to success for any project. It can ensure useful information that serves as a precedent for current and future projects, thus avoiding risks or critical paths.  

One of the most important features of CPM is that it guides project managers through the project initiation and planning process. Initially, the project manager establishes the project objective and identifies all the resources needed to complete the project. It then determines the critical path based on available resources and assigns the shortest lead time for each resource. Through this process, a project manager may determine which tasks can be completed first and which must wait.   


What steps should we take to develop a critical path?  

  1. List the outstanding tasks - following a work breakdown structure, list all the tasks required to complete the project.   

  1. Recognize critical/dependent tasks - are there tasks within the project that are dependent on each other? Identify them to know the priorities of the plan.   

  1. Define the network diagram - the network diagram, mainly used in the critical path, is able to identify the dependent points of the project in a totally visual way.   

  1. Plan the time for each task - how long will it take to execute all the tasks? And each one?  

  1. Elaborate the critical path - once all processes, tasks and time are established, we elaborate the critical path. By including start and end times for the simplest and most complex tasks we will find the easiest path to follow, reducing the time of the activities considerably.   

Benefits and advantages   

As we have seen, the critical path method can help us identify the complex tasks within a project and establish the time needed to achieve the project successfully in the chronology established by all the parties involved.   

As for the benefits and advantages of including this method in current projects, we find:   

  • It allows to identify the most complex tasks  

  • Helps to establish project timelines  

  • Helps to reduce delivery times  

  • Serves as a comparator between the scheduled and actual project  

  • Helps to plan, organize and manage   

There are many advantages and benefits to be found when drawing up a critical path. The way in which we identify the pending tasks in a project and their execution over time will help project managers to establish more secure and flexible projects over time.   

If you are thinking about training in relation to project management, in La Salle-URL we have specialized programs in the area of Project Management and pioneers for over 20 years. Do you want to know more?   

Be a Project Manager


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