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Critical Path Method Tutorial | How to use CPM for project management

Last updated on 24th Aug 2022, Blog, Tutorials

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Kiran Malik is an associate product manager with four years of experience in ITIL, Prince2, Google Go, BizTalk, and CyberArk. He has expertise in affiliate, pacesetting, authoritative, coercive, and laissez-faire management styles.

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Critical Path Method: obtaining Started in CPM & CPA:

Our CPM guide includes everything you would like to induce starting within the crucial Path technique – with stepwise examples, solutions, in addition as schedules to assist get your next project done quicker and easier.The crucial Path technique (CPM) could be a straightforward but powerful technique for analyzing, planning, and programming massive, advanced systems. it’s accustomed to confirm a project’s critical path—the longest sequence of tasks that has to be finished for the whole project to be complete.CPM, conjointly referred to as crucial Path Analysis (CPA), identifies dependencies between tasks, and shows that tasks are crucial to a project.

The crucial Path technique (CPM) is one amongst the foremost necessary ideas in project management, and positively among the foremost enduring. However, what’s the crucial Path technique, exactly? This beginner-friendly guide can assist you perceive the crucial Path technique and apply it when you come.Early iterations of the crucial Path technique often copied all the methods back to the Manhattan Project within the early Nineteen Forties. Given the ambition, scale, and importance of this world-altering project, scientists – and therefore the managers behind them – developed a variety of techniques to create positivity that the project delivered results on time. For a project management technique, the crucial Path technique has quite an illustrious history.One of these techniques was to project the foremost necessary tasks in any project and use that to estimate the project completion date.

Today, we all know this system because of the crucial Path technique.The crucial Path technique in project management could be a cornerstone of project designing even to the current day. however long a project takes usually depends on the foremost necessary tasks that represent it.If you’ll be able to project these tasks and their length, you’ll be able to get an affordable estimate of the project’s timeline and budget.Don’t worry if all this sounds an excessive amount of jargon to you. During this beginner-friendly guide, I’ll teach you everything you ought to realize about the crucial Path technique (CPM) and the way it applies to project management.

Understand the crucial Path technique:

Critical Path Method

Have you ever detected the idea of Constraints (TOC)?

  • First represented by Elliyahu Goldratt in his 1984 book, The Goal, this theory states that your ability to complete any activity hinges on a number of crucial resources or constraints.
  • For example, if you’re creating a sandwich, you would possibly have all the butter, ham, and cheese you would like, however if you don’t have bread, you can’t build a sandwich.
  • The bread, during this case, would be the constraint your sandwich-making project depends on.
  • The crucial Path technique is analogous to the current theory, however broader focused. In keeping with this technique, the success of any project depends on tasks on a crucial path being completed on time.
  • Let’s scrutinize this technique in additional detail.

What is the crucial Path technique and what’s a crucial Task?

Every project, no matter its size or budget, has some core tasks that are crucial to its completion. A task is outlined as crucial if delaying it’ll impede the completion of the whole project.Take one thing as straightforward as creating an associate dish.If you had to make a brief formula for creating associate dish, it’d look one thing like this:Beat a pair of eggsHeat a pan, add butter/oil once hot Pour within the overwhelmed eggs and cook for five minutes.

There are many different tasks you would like to perform to create an honest dish. you have got to season the eggs with salt and pepper. perhaps add some vegetables and a few cheese. maybe you’ll flip it on the opposite facet that the eggs are absolutely poached through.However, these activities are additionally to the 3 core steps within the formula. Although you don’t perform them, you’ll still have an associated dish. Not a really smart one, but an associated dish however.On the other hand, if you forget to beat the eggs, or heat the pan, or cook the eggs, you won’t have anything, however a chilly pan and 2 eggs.Which is to mention, the 3 steps within the formula describe the crucial tasks necessary to create the omelet-making project successfully.

Critical Path Technique Definition:

Critical Path Technique

The crucial Path technique is outlined within the Project Management Body of information (PMBOK) as follows:

“The crucial Path technique is the sequence of regular activities that determines the length of the project.”These regular activities should be performed if the project is to be thought-about successful. Moreover, they need to be completed in a very specific order. If you’re building a house, you can’t construct the walls so dig the foundation; you have got to try and do it in a very sequence.The necessary bit to grasp is that the CPM describes the longest sequence of tasks within the project.That is, in any project, you’ll have multiple task sequences. The CPM would describe the sequence that takes the foremost time.For example, if you’re building a house, you’d have many task sequences as follows:The total time taken to complete the sequence on this crucial path would offer you an inspiration of the project’s minimum length.You might undertake many task sequences at the same time, however if there are any delays within the crucial path sequence, your project can suffer delays in addition.

The crucial Path Rule Explained:

At its heart, the crucial Path technique is basically an associated rule for decision-making. This rule takes a task’s beginning time, its length, and end time to work out that activities are the foremost attention (i.e. are “critical” for the project).Let’s take into account associate examples to grasp the crucial path rule higher.Suppose you have got an inventory of tasks as shown below. Columns C and D list the tasks that have to be accomplished for the activity to start, and therefore the length of the activity, severally.

Float or Slack in Project Management:

  • A concept associated with, and crucial for victimization the essential Path technique is float or slack.
  • In project management, “float” defines the quantity of your time a task are often delayed while not inflicting a delay in.
  • Any later, dependent tasks – referred to as “free float”
  • Any delay within the overall project – referred to as “total float”
  • Any activity or task on the essential path has zero float. That is, you can’t delay it in the slightest degree while not inflicting a delay within the project or dependent tasks.
  • However, their square measures many different activities within the project that may be delayed. The quantification of this delay is termed the “float”.

For example: once you’re creating a dish, “Heating the pan” has zero float since it’s on the essential path.Seasoning the eggs, however, incorporates a ton of float. you’ll add salt to the raw egg mixture, whereas the eggs square measure preparation, and even once they’ve seared.Importance of slack mustn’t be unostentatious. conviving the float or slack of all activities within the project is crucial for higher distribution of resources.If AN activity has high float, you’ll divert its resources to a better priority task.Generally speaking, high float activities are lower down the priority list, whereas those on the essential path (aka ‘zero float’ activities) can get prime attention.


Rare is the project that goes in step with set up. you’ll invariably have delays, scope changes, and consumer demands which will force you to hasten some activities and delay others.The essential Path technique includes many measures to traumatize such contingencies:

1. quick chase: Fast chase is the method of running multiple activities on the essential path in parallel so as to scale back overall project time.Fast chase is just doable for activities that haven’t got “hard” dependencies, i.e. they do not rely utterly on their predecessors to begin.

For example: you would like to dig for inspiration before you build the walls of a house. However, whereas you are doing the excavation, you’ll conjointly purchase bricks and blend the cement.Thus, whereas “build walls” depends on “dig foundation”, you’ll run “buy bricks” and “mix cement” in parallel to excavate the inspiration.Obviously, quick chase needs extra resources. It may impact overall quality since you are distributing resources to multiple tasks. smart resource management can be available significantly handy in things wherever you would like to run activities in parallel.

2. Crashing: What if you would like to rush AN activity thanks to AN early deadline?In such a scenario, you’ll portion extra resources to the activity to bring it to completion quicker.This method is termed ‘crashing’.Having a crash duration is beneficial in activities which.Benefit from having extra resources, i.e. follow a linear relationship between resources and time to completion.Can utilize resources from activities with high floats. Since there’s important “slack” in these activities, you’ll delay them while not jeopardizing the projectCrashing is mostly not suggested in exclusion emergencies since it will impact activities on and outdoors the essential path. If you have got to try and do it, however, divert resources from high float tasks, not those on the essential path.

WHAT square measures the advantages OF THE essential PATH METHOD?

In its Gregorian calendar month 1963 issue, Harvard Business Review had this to mention regarding the essential Path Method: “The essential path method, a potent but fundamentally simple method for assessing, planning, and scheduling large, intricate events, has just been added to the growing collection of quantitative tools for business higher cognitive process”.Since then, this technique has established itself firmly within the theory and application of project management. And permanently reason – victimization the essential Path technique offers numberless benefits:

Reduce delays: The essential Path technique helps establish the foremost vital sequence of tasks in an exceedingly project. Managers will use this data to scale back delays by optimizing the work on the essential path, proactively preventing delays before they occur.

Visualize dependencies: The CPM depends on listing all tasks related to a project and their dependencies. The chart so created will assist you visualize all dependencies and rank tasks consequently. Visualizing an essential Path technique schedule may merely provide all stakeholders and resources a general roadmap of what to expect in any given CPM-driven method.

Improve organization: In complicated cases, the CPM helps break down deliverables into sequences, and sequences into tasks. This, together with the main focus on visualizing dependencies, mapping constraints, and shaping the essential path of tasks drastically improves project organization, ultimately creating additional manageability.

Optimize efficiency: By mapping the essential path, project managers get a stronger plan of vital tasks within the project. they will use this data to portion resources additional expeditiously, adding/removing resources counting on the task’s importance.

Float calculation: Float, as we’ll learn below, defines what quantity a task is often delayed while not impacting the project schedule. This is often a very important part of the essential Path technique. Conviving the float will assist you distribute resources additional effectively whereas being higher ready for any unforeseen problems which will arise at any purpose throughout the project.If you’re a project manager – or aiming to be one – there’s another excuse to know the essential Path Method: it’s a core part of the PMP examination. You can’t extremely hope to be a licensed project management skilled while not having a deep understanding of this technique

HOW TO USE THE essential PATH technique?

Project managers (PMs) use CPM to seek out the most effective thanks to schedule all the tasks in an exceedingly large project so they will be completed as quickly and cheaply as possible. It helps them to rank tasks, anticipate bottlenecks, and establish task dependencies, resource constraints, and project risks.The essential Path technique will appear too sophisticated till you really place it to use. If you have an honest understanding of core project management ideas like the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), you’ll realize that CPM is delightfully easy.



It’s important to notice that though CPM continues to play a significant role in project management, new theories and workflows ask for boost processes even additional.That said, the crucial path methodology remains well-liked thanks to schedule comes, despite some newer theories that have arisen in recent years. One such theory is that the physical property theory, that suggests that comes ought to be scheduled per flexibility of the deadlines. This takes into consideration the actual fact that sudden delays will continuously occur, which is why it’s higher to possess a project that is finished a touch late than one that is rushed or ne’er finished in the least.

Other theories specialize in mistreatment prognostic analytics to calculate the most effective attainable sequence of tasks so as to realize the specified outcome. As an example, some researchers square measure exploring however computer science may be accustomed to facilitate determination and optimize crucial methods. This might facilitate cutting back the number of your time required to complete a project and improve its overall potency.Earned price Management (EVM) is another project management technique that integrates price, schedule, and scope info into one performance measure system. EVM can even be placed to follow in conjunction with CPM, as EVM contractors typically use it to assess project performance and confirm whether or not a project is on-schedule and on-budget.Interestingly, most new updates or theoretical approaches draw inspiration from CPM itself.


While there are not any excellent solutions to project management, the crucial path methodology remains one among the foremost in style ways in which to induce the work done. Place plainly, CPM is employed to compress and build schedules additional economical, quickly resolve resource shortages or resignations, and compile knowledge for future use. pressing a schedule means finding ways in which to complete the project in less time. This may be done by eliminating spare tasks, shortening task durations, or overlapping tasks. Partitioning resource shortages means that ensuring that every one the resources required to complete the project square measure accessible once required and proactively knowing once further resources could also be required. This may be done by reallocating resources, negotiating for additional resources, or suspending tasks that may be done later.

Aggregation knowledge for future use means that gathering info concerning however the project was completed therefore it may be used as a guide for future comes.As shown within the crucial path methodology example on top of, CPM may be a powerful project management tool. By having a foundational understanding of how CPM works and the way it may be applied to you comes – instead of finding out a quick-fix crucial Path methodology calculator – you’ll use it to boost your project management skills and increase your project’s probabilities of success.For CPM to figure effectively, your schedule should be frequently updated throughout the project to mirror any changes. mistreatment project management computer code like Workamajig can build it faster and easier to plot and monitor your crucial pathway and regulate your schedule once necessary.

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