How to Calculate Critical Path in Project Management

How to Calculate Critical Path in Project Management

Almost half of all projects fail to stay on schedule according to a PMI (Project Management Institute) study. In this article we will discuss what is Critical Path Method, how to use it, and what are the benefits of using this method to keep your projects running on schedule. 

Completing projects on time is crucial for businesses as it ensures the timely delivery of products or services, meeting customer expectations, and maintaining satisfaction. Adhering to project timelines enhances overall organizational efficiency, enabling companies to allocate resources effectively and optimize workflow. 

Meeting deadlines also contributes to a positive reputation, fostering trust among clients and stakeholders, ultimately bolstering the company’s competitive edge in the market.

Let’s explore how CPM or the Critical Path Method can be leveraged in your organization to get work done on time and achieve operational excellence.

What is the Critical Path Method in Project Management?

The Harvard Business Review defines the critical path in the following way…

“The critical path (or paths) is the longest path (in time) from Start to Finish; it indicates the minimum time necessary to complete the entire project.”

Forbes defines the Critical Path Method as…

“…The longest sequence of dependent tasks within a project.” 

How to manage the critical path?

Forbes goes on to say, “If those tasks are completed on time, the project can be completed at the earliest date possible. It also identifies the tasks that can be completed in parallel to critical tasks with more buffer time around them. By prioritizing tasks that have no buffer time and completing other tasks.”

So in other words, if you identify the longest dependency chain in your project plans, then that becomes your critical path. Once you have this chain identified or your critical path, you can start planning how to best meet this deadline and mitigate risks that may occur when executing the tasks that are part of this path. That is why it is so important to communicate to the entire team about what is part of the critical path, and then coordinate proactively to mitigate risks that may develop on that path.

How to track Critical Path Method in project planning?

When planning a project, it is important to quickly identify the critical path and then report and share about that path. If your team doesn’t know the path, then your whole team becomes reactive rather than proactive when completing tasks on the critical path. 

“A project without a critical path is like a ship without a rudder.” — D. Meyer, Illinois Construction Law

When using a project management tool, leverage one in your communication with your team that makes it easy to identify the critical path. Here is an example from our PPM (Project Portfolio Management Software) solution Proggio, that shows how easy your PPM can make identifying and reporting on your critical path can be. 

Visualizing data streamlines reporting and collaboration in business by presenting complex information in an easily digestible format, reducing the time spent deciphering raw data. Visuals like our patented project map that is shown in the example above with the critical chain feature, demonstrate a quick overview, enabling faster decision-making and facilitating clearer communication among team members. This visual approach enhances collaboration by promoting a shared understanding of project progress and key insights, fostering more efficient teamwork within the organization.

What are the basic benefits of the Critical Path Method (or Critical Chain Analysis) in project management?

Harvard Business Review lists the following as a few of the benefits of using CPM 

  • Easy budget control
  • Effective scheduling
  • Simplified project management
  • Efficient resource allocation
  • Straightforward reporting
  • Enhanced scope creep management

The critical path method (CPM) plays a pivotal role in project management by identifying the sequence of tasks that directly impact the project’s overall duration. This clarity makes it easier to manage budgets, as stakeholders can allocate resources more effectively to the critical tasks that have the most significant impact on project timelines. 

By focusing on the critical path, project managers can prioritize and optimize workflows, ensuring that resources are dedicated to activities essential for timely project completion. Ultimately, the critical path method serves as a strategic tool, allowing teams to maintain a proactive approach to project management, minimize delays, and successfully keep projects running on time and within budget.

With a defined critical path, project managers can also easily identify potential delays and allocate resources strategically, minimizing the risk of scope creep. By focusing on the critical path tasks, the CPM helps teams maintain project scope integrity, ensuring that deviations are promptly addressed and mitigated, leading to more straightforward reporting and successful project outcomes.


In summary, we have covered how the critical role of the Critical Path Method (CPM) in project management addresses the common challenge of project delays and the importance of timely project completion for business success. We highlighted the benefits of CPM, including efficient resource allocation, simplified project management, and straightforward reporting, underscoring its pivotal role in ensuring projects stay on schedule and within budget. 

Finally, we reviewed how the integration of visualizations, such as project maps, further enhances collaboration and proactive decision-making, reinforcing the CPM’s significance in achieving operational excellence.

How has the Critical Path Method helped your organization?


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