As a child, I loved playing dominos. Or at least, I enjoyed creating those big long “snakes”, tipping the final one and then watching them all (hopefully!) knock each other down.
Starting with straight lines, then a few bends and eventually ended with some fairly complex shapes including up and down hill flows – some of which worked and some not so much.
My most complex was a “3 piece” where there were three different chains going off at the same time.
If one domino was out of place, the flow was interrupted. Things didn’t go according to plan.
This used to happen if the domino was too far apart or too close i.e. I hadn’t factored in the impact of each domino correctly on the next.
So it is with project management and the critical path.
Critical path indicates that the next task cannot be started without completion of the prior task(s).
There is a dependency on the previous activities for the following ones to work correctly.
Critical path effectively defines the length of the project.
- Tasks can be on this “critical path”.
- Resources can be on this “critical path”.
- Budgetary approval can be on this “critical path”.
In fact anything that causes an impact on the downstream activities and prevents them from starting.
What often happens is that the critical path gets examined when a wall is hit. The questions are asked to try and work around the fact the task is on the critical path and “can we not just do it anyway”.
The answer is generally “no”, all tasks need to be completed.
However, I have seen many occurrences where the critical path is magically wiped clean and planned tasks that were purportedly dependent on previous tasks were started with no ill-effect.
Nope. Just poor planning during the initial project planning stage by the team.
This is not the fault of the project manager, but the people who are advising as to what the dependencies are. All the project manager can do is push and ask “are you sure” for each critical path identification and ensure that as little as possible is on it.
So when you are planning your projects and have found things to put on that critical path, ask yourself whether they are real or not.
Debate and changing of plans when these points are reached costs time and therefore money so the less tasks that are dependent on others, the better.
How do you map your critical path in your projects?