Critical Path Shortening

Critical Path Shortening

The most basic way to shorten your project.

Step 1 Estimate your project accurately

If you don’t know how to estimate a project properly, you’ll never shorten it.  What will actually happen is that your initial estimates will turn out to be wildly inaccurate and the project will end up taking much longer than anybody could possibly have imagined.

So you need to learn accurate estimation – as well as the (incredibly important) difference between Work and Duration.  If you want to know about these things, download the following two papers – How To Run Successful Projects and How To Estimate Anything Accurately.

How To Run Successful Projects

How To Estimate Anything Accurately

Maybe you’re saying that you already have a plan and you think the estimates are pretty accurate.  Great.

However, does your plan contain Work (also known as Effort)?  If it doesn’t, it’s not really a plan – it’s a timeline.  The problem with timelines is that you haven’t estimated how much stuff has to be done – you’ve only estimated how long stuff is going to take.

Without knowing how much stuff has to be done, you don’t know how many people you need to do that stuff.  Its almost inevitable then that you’ll be short.  This will manifest itself by anything from being under huge pressure to hit milestones all the way up to missing your milestones by a mile.


Step 2 Find the Critical Path

You know what the Critical Path is, right?  It’s the shortest time in which the project can be done.  If you’re going to shorten the project, you need to shorten the jobs on the Critical Path. The red arrows and the bars highlight the critical path of the project here.


Step 3 Shorten the jobs that lie on the Critical Path

Here are three ways to do that:

  1. Reduce or eliminate multitasking.  As we’ve described here multitasking is disastrous for productivity.  If you have a job where somebody is multitasking on it, ask if there’s any way they can work full time on it to get it done as quickly as possible.  Thus suppose there’s a 3 person-day (PD) job on your project and somebody’s assigned 1 day per week to do it, then it’s going to take 3 weeks.  Ask if there’s any way they could give you all three days together.  This would reduce the duration from 3 weeks (15 days) to 3 days!  It won’t always be possible but every time it is, you’ll see dramatic improvements.  As we never get tired of saying, multitasking has a COLOSSAL effect on how quickly projects can be done.
  2. Can I finish this before?  We do this all the time in our lives.  Can I get this done before the weekend, for example.  So same applies here.  Look through your plan for any jobs that span the weekend or a public holiday or the time you’ll be on vacation or any other significant event.  Ask could they be finished before that event.
  3. Can I parallel stuff?  Often jobs depend 100% on each other.  Job B absolutely can’t begin until job A finishes.  But sometimes, we can start B before A is completely finished.  Check these B-depends-on-A dependencies and see whether any degree of paralleling is possible.