Easier Project Crashing Using the Critical Path Method

“Easier Project Crashing Using the Critical Path Method” on Smartsheet, September 26, 2022.

What Is Project Crashing in Project Management?

  • Use Fast-Tracking: A common alternative to the crashing method in project management is fast-tracking. Alan Zucker, Founding Principal of Project Management Essentials LLC, defines the technique: “Fast-tracking is when you overlap tasks originally scheduled to run separately. But fast-tracking can only be applied if the activities in question can reasonably overlap each other. Sometimes that simply isn’t realistic. This course of action, crashing or fast-tracking, should not be taken without a thorough analysis of every facet of feasibility and risk.” Fast-tracking does not require project managers to increase the budget or add new resources for the project. However, fast-tracking tends to be riskier than crashing.
  • Combine CPM with Other Tools at the Management Stage: “Your crash project plan often requires you to fold many different tools — critical path, PERT, and Gantt project management tools — together, particularly if you are working on a large, complex project,” notes Zucker, “It’s useful in crashing and makes it easier to adjust when things change — because they always do.”

Project Crashing Use Case Examples

There are examples of project crashing in every industry. That’s because no matter how well you plan, there will always be times when deadlines move. Project crashing with CPM gets you to the finish line faster.

Here are some examples of the upsides and risks from real-life project crashing use cases:

  • Home Renovation: Zucker provides a simple example that most homeowners will relate to: kitchen renovation. With all the steps and predecessors required to put a new kitchen in place, you might need to rearrange the order of your tasks. “Reconsider what you think is critical or what designers traditionally tell you: painting before cabinets and flooring before painting,” says Zucker. “Instead, be flexible. Move things along in what might not be deemed the ‘right way.’ For example, there may be unforeseen circumstances such as supply chain and delivery issues, very common in recent times, so appliances come later than planned. Do what you can to keep the project moving, and crash portions of the project instead of the entire process.”
  • Software Product Development: Zucker says that, even more than in other projects,  software product development requires reviewing and reconsidering objectives at the beginning and throughout the project. It also requires that teams manage the approval process, which can be far slower because of all the unknowns.
  • Financial Services: “An accounting rule change affected my client, a large, international organization. I had to execute and overhaul MIS accounting in less than a year,” Zucker reports. “In this case, because it was a legal issue, it simply had to be done at a certain date to meet regulations.” Management wasn’t as concerned as they should have been with costs and threw a lot of money at the project before Zucker came on board. Management had flown in new team members before a workable plan was in place. This created even more problems and incurred more crashing. The deadline was met, but it required rework, ongoing planning, and close supervision.

Risk of Crashing Projects

  • The Human Factor: “Adding people and vendors can be a blessing and a curse,” notes Zucker. “You need to train people, whether internal or external and potentially pull them off other work, which can create a whole new set of problems and chaos.”
  • Low Suitability for Some Projects: Zucker and Quigley stress that project crashing, even with CPM, is not as effective in projects with too many unknowns. “Crashing does not work well on knowledge work projects, in my opinion, such as software development, rather than manufacturing with clearer milestones and tasks,” says Zucker.