Critical Path: It’s not “the most important stuff”

Critical Path comes up frequently in our interactions with our customers. Most executives we speak with still use the term Critical Path to describe “the most important stuff.” But those of us who are trained project managers and schedulers know that’s not exactly right.

Pert_chart_coloredThe Critical Path is actually a product of the Critical Path Method, which was developed to find the longest path of planned activities to logical end points or to the end of the project, and the earliest and latest dates that each activity can start and finish without making the project longer.

The point is to find the things that can’t be late in the plan, without impacting the finish date of the project (or another date in the plan). Again, probably not “the most important stuff,” but it is important.

When it comes to calulating Critical Path, however, there is not a single method or firm set of rules, and Microsoft Project allows you some options in this regard, for better or worse.  If you’ve never checked these out, we encourage you to read a detailed article from our blog that seeks to clarify things.

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