Easy CPM – Understanding the Basics of the Critical Path Method

To understand anything complex, one must first understand something simple. That’s a basic fact. After all, if you can’t understand the sentence “Dogs bark,” how can you understand the past several sentences, this entire post or a novel?

The “Dogs bark” example offers a great lens to understanding the easiest way to form a sentence, and by examining this, we get a better look into understanding the philosophy of CPM construction scheduling or project scheduling in general. That sentence (again, “Dogs bark”) features the two things that, according to English grammar, a sentence requires: a noun and a verb. In fact, if you’ve ever taken a grammar class, you’ll have learned that a one-word sentence does not exist and any collection of words that lacks either a noun or a verb does not qualify as a sentence. Even if one could answer a yes-or-no question with one word, that answer would not qualify as a sentence.

Stripping the English language down to necessities or prerequisites mirrors the Critical Path Method scheduling process. Just like every sentence requires a noun and a verb before it can function further, a building needs a foundation before it needs a roof. Certain activities, in any project, must happen early on in order for future activities to have success. However, in a complex project, figuring out the most critical activities can require a lot of analysis in order to determine what activities should take precedence over others.

Take food preparation as a simple example, in this case: making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. What do you need to do first, assuming that you have all of the necessary items for the project (knife, peanut butter, jelly, two pieces of bread)? Well, first you need to gather the supplies. What if the kitchen counter is cluttered and you have no space to make the sandwich? You’ll need to remove the clutter before gather the supplies, in order to have a place to put the supplies. After that, it’s pretty self-explanatory (make the sandwich).

What about the case in which you need to make multiple sandwiches in a limited amount of time for a diverse group of people who order different sandwiches? Add to this scenario that you only have one knife (for whatever reason) and one of the diners has a peanut allergy, yet wants a sandwich that requires the use of a knife. In this case, you have a lot of variables to take into consideration before beginning the project in order to get done on time, satisfying all of the needs for the diners. You either need to make sure to make the dish for the peanut allergic individual first, in order to ensure that no peanut residue gets on the sandwich, or you need to allocate time to wash the knife in between meal preparations, depending on whatever other variable occur in the project.

So, if the above examples offer such complexity, how complex is performing construction planning in San Antonio, Los Angeles or Chicago? Keep this in mind as you consider means to organize your next project and ask “Do I have the resources or time to schedule this on my own?” Often times, the answer is “No,” because you have a lot of other things to worry about in the project.

Take some time to look through Precision Scheduling Consultants’ site for more information on project management and CPM scheduling.