Managing project time
“What’s so critical about the critical path?”
Several years ago, I was teaching a seminar to senior managers in a very
project-driven engineering company where most of the attendees had
come up through the ranks, serving previously as project engineers and
managers. I had begun by discussing how every project is an investment,
and how to manage the metrics of such an investment. Then I moved on
to the subject of this chapter, using critical path analysis to manage the
investment impacts of the project schedule. As I do shortly, I focused on
the missing metric in critical path analysis: critical path drag. I dened and
described it, why it was so important, and explained how to compute it.
Several of these executives were astonished to discover a simple yet cru-
cial new concept in the method of scheduling they’d been doing for years
and thought they knew backwards and forwards. Finally, one of the senior
managers interrupted me: “Y’know, Steve,” he drawled, “you have what I’d
call an amazing grasp of the glaringly obvious!”
I hope that much of what was covered in the previous chapters now
seems to the reader to be “glaringly obvious,” or at least, in retrospect,
straightforward and not particularly controversial, even if not standard
practice. But what I describe in this chapter is amazingly obvious. The
fact that it is not standard practice—indeed, the fact that it has not been
standard practice for the 50-plus decades that critical path analysis has
been around—is mind-boggling.
For the past 15 years, critical path drag is the topic about which I am
most often asked to write articles or make presentations. This is because
its value is the most intuitively obvious of all the techniques and metrics
that are discussed in this book. When computing critical path drag and
its corollary metrics becomes standard scheduling practice, and is sup-
ported by all project management software packages, crucial techniques
that are almost never done today will suddenly become commonplace.
Project teams will nally start to
1. Compress project durations and thus make projects more protable.
2. Identify ways to recover slipping project schedules quickly and
3. Identify both the work activities and the resource constraints that
are delaying project completion.