The critical path method focuses on the delivery timescales associated with key project tasks. Any slippage of any of these tasks will have a direct impact on the overall project delivery date.
This method focuses on sequential tasks with defined delivery dates, enabling resource to prioritise activities and to track performance.
The GANTT chart is most commonly used to demonstrate the critical nature of key tasks and links them, highlighting that movement in one task has a knock-on effect with the other tasks linked to it.
To be effective, realistic timescales need to be associated with the key deliverables, together with any external dependencies, so that an accurate critical path can be produced. While it is prudent to have an appropriate level of contingency built into the plan, as the project manager will be using this plan for resource management, this contingency should be appropriate and understood. All stakeholders need to have a strong awareness of the detail behind the tasks and associated timescales to ensure that project delivers as efficiently and effectively as possible.
This method is most effective for projects with defined end dates, such as regulatory projects, where the end date is immoveable. Delays or anticipated delays in the completion of tasks will provide an immediate flag for escalation, enabling the project manager to request the additional support required to ensure delivery within the required timescales.