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  1. #1
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    Question about critical path (MS Project 2000)

    I'm having a hard time reconciling MS Project's definition of the critical path ("a series of tasks that must be completed on schedule for a project to finish on schedule") with the common understanding ("the longest path in a network, usually with zero days slack"). I thought that when you highlight the critical path (by making critical tasks red), you should see at least one continuous line from beginning to end, and that if you have a fragmented critical path, you have a problem. But one of my colleagues says she wants to see as few red tasks as possible. This is making it difficult for me to understand how to use the Tracking Gantt as a tracking/reporting tool. Have any of you encountered this conundrum? I appreciate your comments--thanks!

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    Silver Lounger GARYPSWANSON's Avatar
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    Re: Question about critical path (MS Project 2000)

    The critical path is not necessarily the longest path in a network but does typically contain zero or negative total slack. Your friends comment to see as few red tasks is baffling as the critical tasks in a network may change based upon the rate of performance. If you want to get rid of your critical tasks, just get rid of all of your predecessors and successors and make everything the same duration <img src=/S/sarcasm.gif border=0 alt=sarcasm width=15 height=15> ... in fact, why not just use excel. Sorry - didn't mean to get sarcastic.

    Could you ask your colleague what the purpose of getting rid of the critical tasks are. They are supposed to help you manage your work by being able to identify which tasks MUST be finished according to schedule.
    Regards,

    Gary
    (It's been a while!)

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    Re: Question about critical path (MS Project 2000)

    Thanks for validating, Gary! (I couldn't agree more: a lot of people would be better off using Excel <img src=/S/doh.gif border=0 alt=doh width=15 height=15>
    Unfortunately, my colleague is not a permanent employee where I work (she is an external consultant) and I'm not sure where she is right now, so I can't ask her to elaborate. But when she saw my continuous red line through the network, she said she "wouldn't want to touch that project with a ten-foot pole"!

    What I'm still not clear on is whether I'm right that you should see one continuous path through the network, not just a few red tasks at the end.

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    Silver Lounger GARYPSWANSON's Avatar
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    Re: Question about critical path (MS Project 2000)

    The critical tasks do contribute to the longest path through the project and dictate the earliest finish date.

    If the majority of tasks are critical in your project, the consultant may not want to touch it as slippages are sometimes inevitable and you wont have any slack to work with.

    One way to reduce the amount of critical tasks is to use relationships such as start to start with a lag as opposed to a start to finish. For example, you are building a large house and your schedule states that sheetrocking takes 10 days and painting 10 days (this is a really large house). The total elapsed time would be 20 days if you have a finish to start on sheetrocking to painting. However, you know you could start painting after 5 days of sheetrocking so you could do a start to start with 5 day lag so the total elapsed time is only 15 days. (We saved 5 days!). You could also add resources assuming that more resources could do the work faster. Thus if your end date remained the same, you could add some float to the project.

    Good luck with your project.
    Regards,

    Gary
    (It's been a while!)

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    Re: Question about critical path (MS Project 2000)

    Thanks for your help, Gary!

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