Define: Critical Path

Critical Path: A series of tasks that extend a project to its longest finish date.  Tasks that depend upon previous tasks, causing a project to finish at the latest time.


A project’s critical path is your longest route from start to finish.  In other words, your project cannot be finished any quicker than through this series of tasks.  Eliminate or shorten some tasks, and your project will be completed sooner.

It is valuable to analyze a project’s critical path.  Sometimes you can offload tasks to other resources, effectively shortening it.  In essence, you are turning a series circuit into a parallel circuit with multiple paths.  Any time you can do this, you are trading time for resources.  Yes, it will cost more, but you’ll finish sooner.

Consider a simple project with 1,000 hours of work, all performed by a single person.  The critical path is that single-path sequence of tasks.  Task 1, then 2, then 3, and so on…  You get the idea.

What if you added another person who could do the same work?  The project would then be completed in 500 hours, utilizing two paths.  But do you have a second person?

This is the crux of project management – juggling time, resources, and cost to maximize productivity.  Quite a game, huh?  🙂