Critical Path Project Management: Definition and Examples

Le chemin critique (en anglais, Critical Path Method ou CPM) est une technique qui permet d’identifier les tâches nécessaires à l’achèvement d’un projet. En gestion de projet, le chemin critique représente la plus longue séquence d’activités à réaliser dans les temps, afin de boucler l’ensemble du projet. Vous trouverez ci-dessous les différentes étapes qui vous permettront de trouver le chemin critique pour vos prochains projets.

What is the Critical Path Method (CPM)? PM in Under 5 minutes

Benefits of the critical path method

When overseeing a project, a project manager can often feel overwhelmed by all the tasks that must be completed before reaching the end goal. Working with a team also involves outsourcing the work to members of that team, which can cause delays and take aspects of the project out of the PMs hands. Project managers might also be responsible for reporting progress to managers and executives in the company, so the timeline estimates and associated tasks must be accurate.

Critical path method scheduling allows a project manager to focus on the larger picture instead of being slowed down by smaller details. By creating a specific schedule and working with those who will be responsible for completing each task along the way, its easier to determine an accurate timeline and track what needs to be completed for each step. A critical path chart, also called a “diagram,” puts all team members on the same path toward completion while clearly outlining who is responsible for what task.

Critical path methodology project management also becomes a tool of reference for monitoring progress and reporting on each task as it is completed. The project manager may need to adjust the resources allocated to a certain work package if it is taking longer than expected or potentially causing a delay. In order to be effective, project managers must continue to consult the critical path plan throughout the project to prevent delays and keep the work moving.

What is critical path?

After mapping out the project critical path, the next step is creating a diagram of the results. This responsibility usually falls on the project manager who is responsible for the overall critical path method and result. By putting all the work packages together, the project manager can determine the proper order in which they must be completed along with an estimated timeline of when each step should begin to meet the time goal.

To accommodate potential delays or issues that arise within work packages, the diagrammed critical path schedule should include several key measures:

By diagramming the information about the project schedule, the project manager will gain more accurate calculations for the targeted end date. Identifying any potential slack or float time is an important step in the process of creating a critical path diagram.

Critical path example

The CPM is meant to determine how long each task takes before you can finish a project. The method is flexible, allowing you to adjust tasks and timelines along the way.

The step-by-step aspect of CPM is particularly useful during construction projects because of the physical nature of the work. The task manager over the drywall of a building, for example, cannot complete their work until the framing and steel erection are complete. Every step has a timeline and must be finished before the next task manager can step in and get started.

However, not all industries and projects will benefit from creating steps that must be completed in sequence. Some will require elements of the project to be completed either simultaneously or out of sequence. Creating a diagram as part of the critical path project management methodology allows the PM to create a visual representation of each task that needs to be completed and when it needs to be finished to keep the project on time.

Going back to the construction critical path method example, certain elements of the project may be worked on at the same time as long as they dont directly overlap or compete. While the steelworkers are erecting the frame, perhaps the plumbing sub-contractor could be mapping out the pipes and installing them beneath the ground. When mapping out the critical path of a project, determining which tasks can be handled simultaneously can trim the final timeline and allow more team members to work at the same time.

The construction industry is one where critical path management is highly utilized and valued. Project managers involved in construction understand the value of driving efficiency through the creation and tracking of reasonable timelines. To succeed with the critical path management method on a construction job, the PM must oversee all task managers carefully. A mistake in one task could ultimately impact the outcome of the following tasks, pushing back the projects completion date.

Utilizing critical path analysis

To better understand critical path project management, reviewing some examples of others analyses can be helpful. A project manager can determine the best format for critical path analysis. Some use spreadsheets, while others create actual diagrams with arrows pointing to the specific tasks along the way. Reviewing examples in several formats can provide additional insights and options for the best method based on the scope and needs of the project.

To define critical path, a project manager can look at the overall timeline for a project and then break that timeline out into specific tasks. Those tasks become the milestones along the path to completion of the project, which can be assigned to other members of the team involved. A project manager is responsible for overseeing the timeline and making sure that each task is on target for completion by the required end date.


What is a critical path in project management?

The critical path method is a reliable way for project managers to budget time and allocate resources. Advantages of CPM include improved accuracy and flexibility in scheduling, clearer communication between project managers and stakeholders, easier task prioritization, and more.

What is critical path example?

The critical path method (CPM) is a technique where you identify tasks that are necessary for project completion and determine scheduling flexibilities. A critical path in project management is the longest sequence of activities that must be finished on time in order for the entire project to be complete.

How do you identify a critical path?

The critical path (or paths) is the longest path (in time) from Start to Finish; it indicates the minimum time necessary to complete the entire project.

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