How to Implement Critical Path Method in Project Management

The success of every project lies in the visualization of every stage. From planning, implementation, to monitoring and controlling stages, strategies and quantitative tools aid the decision-makers in every process. Most of these tools help in planning because you can quickly analyze information from a project. The Critical Path Method (CPM) is one such tool that helps you to map out the different stages of a project. It allows you to manage several independent projects no matter the complexity. With information from this blog post, you can successfully identify collective and independent activities that affect a project.

What is the Critical Path method?

Critical Path Methods were developed in the 1950s. It was a technique used to tackle hindsight bias in project management. Through their analytical models, project managers could successfully reduce the problem of increasing costs through task prioritization. The critical path methods are described best using graphs. These graphs help to clarify complex activities in a project through visual depiction. Most Critical Path Methods no longer use graphs as there are computer programs that have been designed to allow clear calculations. CPM helps in scheduling flexibilities because its technique allows you to identify predecessor tasks that need to be completed before other tasks. With CPM, project managers can ensure that critical tasks – that will delay the overall project – are completed and accorded the right durations that will not hamper the progress of other tasks.

Why should you use the Critical Path Method?

CPM cuts across the core of project management, resource management and time management.


You can use CPM to set the expectations  at each  milestone and clarify what is needed from every resource personnel. Even better, CPM allows you to compare, side by side, the expectations and the actual progress which is crucial in developing and optimizing future plans.

Effective optimization of resources

When project managers understand which tasks to prioritize, it becomes easier to know where and how to deploy the use of resources.

Time management

CPM can save projects a lot of time by avoiding bottlenecks. They help to create a seamless flow of activities using network diagrams. This makes schedule management and estimation clearer for everyone involved in a project.

How to find and implement a Critical Path

You can execute CPM in any project by simply finding out critical and non-critical tasks. Here is how.

1.    List Activities

You can use a work breakdown structure to visually list the activities and tasks that are required to produce deliverables. Be sure to not miss any as this is the foundation of the rest of the CPM.

2.    Identify dependencies

Once you have been able to identify all the activities and have created a breakdown structure for work that is dependent on other tasks, you can identify dependent activities. You can also determine activities that can run parallel to others. This is also known as critical path analysis.

3.    Create a network diagram

This step can be represented in a flowchart. This part is easy if you have successfully implemented the above step. The flowchart should be able to point to other tasks in a chronological format to depict the dependencies of tasks.

4.    Set Time and schedule

Here, you need to estimate how long the project will take. You can easily do this by;

  • Enquiring from team leaders or personnel
  • Using information from previous projects
  • Use industry-standard estimation

5.    Calculate the critical path

Project managers can manually calculate critical paths or use critical path algorithms. If you want to use the manual method, here are the steps you can take;

Step 1:

  • Line up each activity’s start to end time from head to tail. For example, if activity one has a start time of 0 – 4minutes, the next activity’s start time should be 4:01 minutes.
  • Do this for each activity.

Step 2:

Use the end time of the last activity to determine the duration of the entire sequence.

Step 3:

The activity with the longest duration determines your critical path.

6.    Determine the float of given tasks

Simply, this is the amount of flexibility that can be implemented on a task. Flexibility here can delay the task. However, such delays will not affect the implementation of other tasks. The float will determine how to mitigate unexpected issues that may occur in the implementation of a project. Float can also be calculated using a manual method or with the algorithm.

Thurman Co helps business owners use strategic project management schemes to ensure that their projects run smoothly. To get the best project manager for your initiatives,  please contact Thurman Co.

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